Press Archive


By Cecil E. Roberts

Mike Payton has been working as a coal miner in Marion County for 10 years. He got out of school, went to work, started a family, bought a house and began his climb up the ladder of economic security that has for generations been the way out of poverty for people in the coalfields.

A member of the United Mine Workers of America, Mike shops at local stores, eats at local restaurants, takes his kids to local doctors and clinics. He and thousands more like him throughout America's coalfields have an immense impact on the economic and social fabrics of their communities.

Indeed, without them, many of those communities would dry up and vanish.

That's starting to happen. Average coal employment in the United States dropped 17.1 percent over the last two years. West Virginia alone lost more than 2,500 coal jobs over that time. Kentucky lost another 6,000 and coal employment there has dropped to the lowest level since 1927. That means that nearly $1 billion in wages and benefits has been ripped out of the economies of the largely rural West Virginia and Kentucky coalfield communities in just two years.

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