By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The United Mine Workers of America is “going to fight every step of the way” to try to force Patriot Coal Corp. to keep the promise it made to active and retired miners and their families, union officials say.
Men, women and children gathered at the Charleston Civic Center on Monday for a massive rally organized by the UMW as part of its “Fairness at Patriot” campaign, which focuses on the health care, wages and working conditions of coal miners. In addition to UMW members and their loved ones, labor leaders and elected officials showed their support of the union in its fight against Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, Congressman Nick Rahall, UMW International President Cecil Roberts and AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka spoke at the rally, and then the crowd marched to Patriot’s state offices at Laidley Tower in downtown Charleston.
Mike Caputo, District 31 international vice president of the UMW, described the sight as “nothing but a sea of camouflage” as supporters walked together wearing their camouflage UMW attire, and the line of people went as far as the eye could see. Even if the participants weren’t marching, they were following behind on buses to join in the effort.
District 31, which covers Northern West Virginia and most of Ohio, transported 18 buses full of people to the rally, and many other individuals from the area drove themselves, he said. In addition to West Virginia, buses came from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.
“We certainly had one of the biggest rallies I have been to in many years,” Caputo said. “It was very emotional. I’ve never seen our union more solidified than they are now in this fight.”