CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The United Mine Workers held its 75th annual Labor Day celebration in John Slack Memorial Park in Racine Monday afternoon, and more than 250 union miners and retirees and their families listened to music and speeches, enjoyed a pig roast and met with friends.
Before the rally began, Christine Campbell, newly elected president of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia, said, "This is my first time here and it is fantastic. I am here to support the UMW.
"They started workers' rights in West Virginia. As teachers, I don't think we would have our door open to fight for things we need if it were not for the United Mine Workers of America."
A language-arts teacher at Marlinton Middle School in Pocahontas County, Campbell taught for 18 years before becoming the state's AFT president.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told the audience, "It is you who have been the backbone of our economy. But there has been a war on coal going on."
Tomblin mentioned his recent trip to Washington, D.C., when he and other political, union and company leaders met with Obama administration officials.
"I told them we want a clean environment in West Virginia. I grew up on the banks of the Gauley River, when it ran black," Tomblin said. "But please do not put any more miners out of work in West Virginia."
Tomblin said new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy was much more receptive about listening to them during their recent trip than her predecessor, Lisa Jackson.
"We will probably lose five coal power plants over the next couple of years," Tomblin said.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va, said, "These are troubled times when we should be working together more than ever.
"This is not only about you," Rahall said to working miners. "It is also about your families and those who came before you and those who died in mining accidents."
Rahall praised UMW President Cecil Roberts, who could not attend because he was speaking in Paducah, Ky.
"Cecil has done some tremendous work in recent weeks, in relation to the Patriot Coal situation."
After Patriot Coal was created in 2007, it took over union mines east of the Mississippi River -- and most of their employee benefits -- that had been owned by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. In July 2012, Patriot filed for bankruptcy largely because it could not pay the health-care and pension liabilities it inherited from those companies.