Many good folks up and down the Appalachian coalfields rely on coal jobs. It is a way of life, a means to put food on the table and send sons and daughters to college while building family pride.
Unfortunately, the army of coal miners has dwindled here and across the nation in the past 30 years. The diminished coalfield workforce equates to struggling economies.
In 2012, there were 4,484 coal miners employed in Alabama and they extracted 19,060,494 tons of coal, according to the Alabama Coal Association.
In Alabama alone, the coal industry is responsible for 16,000 jobs. The 4,000-plus men and women who are directly employed in Alabama coal mining bring home a total payroll of more than $300 million. It’s an economic engine that still brings well over a billion dollars to our state.
The history of coal in Walker County was a primary theme of our spring issue of Walker Magazine. We wanted to acknowledge those men and women who helped shape Walker County into what it is today.
The Alabama Coal Association earlier this year launched an aggressive campaign geared at fighting back against the war on coal. “Coal Jobs Count” points the finger at President Obama and his arsenal of Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Locally, the initiative targets proposed legislation by Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn, which would allow him to take money from environmental groups while restricting the rights of coal miners and their employers from supporting candidates with a different point of view.
Tiffany Bittner, executive director of Coal Jobs Count, says about the families affected, “These families are the people you live next door to or you go to church with maybe your kids play ball together. We are talking about real people, the hard working men and women who get up every day to provide for their loved ones.”
The purpose of Coal Jobs Count is to educate legislators and the public about the efforts to kill coal jobs in Alabama and the “disastrous effects this would have on every resident, family and business of our state,” she adds.
State Sen. Greg Reed and state Rep. Bill Roberts, both Republicans from Walker County, stand beside the Coal Jobs Count mission.
“Standing up to Obama’s war on coal is vital to protecting Alabama jobs,” Sen. Reed said when at the campaign’s launch in January. “That’s why I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hard working coal families in this fight.”
Rep. Roberts echoed those sentiments, “The people of Alabama sent me to Montgomery to stand up for them. I will never forget that and that’s why I’m standing strong to fight those who support Obama’s war on coal. It’s about protecting Alabama jobs.”
“Our legislators have two choices – stand with Obama, radical environmentalists and Terry Dunn in support of a war on coal that kills Alabama coal jobs, or stand with the hard working coal families of Alabama in their fight to keep their jobs,” Bittner says.
I support this worthwhile effort and encourage you to do the same.
Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.