RACINE — Coal mine workers, steel industry workers, political candidates and their families all gathered at the 74th annual United Mine Workers of America Labor Day rally Monday at John Slack Memorial Park in Racine.
“Miners are concerned about their jobs,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “We have to make a stand for our jobs.”
Roberts said the union organization has not endorsed any candidate for president of the United States.
“We are in somewhat of a dilemma,” he said. “Miners are fearful of the aggressive regulations and rule-making of President Barack Obama’s EPA, while union retirees are fearful that Mitt Romney will undermine Social Security and is anti-union.”
Roberts told the large crowd that it was the middle class, unions and organized labor that built America.
“Today, on Labor Day, we recognize those who work and retirees who have worked for this country,” he said.
Roberts also thanks the veterans, pensioners, widows, preachers and others that have been loyal supporters of the union.
“These people have been fighting for us and now it’s time we fight for them, as well as for ourselves,” Roberts said.
Political candidates were also in attendance and Roberts urged the crowd to vote for union-endorsed candidates.
“They are the ones fighting to keep your jobs,” he said.
Boone County Commission President Mickey Brown spoke about all of the benefits Boone County receives from coal severance funds.
“This county depends on coal,” he said. “We support coal and coal supports us.”
The rally stressed organized labor’s contributions to good paying jobs, benefits and workplace safety.
“Before the union, miners were paid script and not money, forced in to company housing and forced to shop at the company store or go to the company doctor,” he said. “The unions changed all that, but today they want to cut our retirees pensions, cut our health care and pay. Don Blankenship used to be king here, but Don Blankenship is gone and we are still here. We must stand up to these rich folks again.”
Roberts added that the UMWA will continue to fight against the Patriot Coal bankruptcy filing.
Patriot Coal Corp. filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in a move by the St. Louis-based mining firm to keep operating while it restructures its finances, according to previously published reports.
Patriot Coal said it lined up $802 million in financing from Citigroup, Barclays and others to allow it to remain in business during proceedings in Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York.
“We are fighting for a change of venue from New York to the Southern District of West Virginia,” Robert said. “We will continue to fight for our miners, widows and retirees in this matter.”