"We have a tragedy brewing that will take out a lot of people unless we come together," the Rev. Jim Lewis, former pastor at St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston, said at Thursday's rally.
About 8,000 miners, retirees and supporters rallied in Charleston on April 1, and the UMW has held several similar rallies in other cities.
The Rev. Bob Wilkins, executive coordinator of the United Methodist Appalachian Ministry network, said to the miners Thursday, "When you worked in dangerous conditions, these companies made money. They promised you benefits.
"Religious leaders see injustice that cannot be tolerated," Wilkins said. "We challenge big business to act with integrity . . . . Just because [something] can be done doesn't mean it should be done."
Several retired miners talked about the problems they and their colleagues face. Shirley Inman, a retired miner herself, said, "We remember miners who suffer back pain. Some miners endure pain with every step they take because a disc has ruptured or has degenerated. These miners cannot share the joy of lifting high a grandchild. We must remember these miners with back pain."
R.C. Chambers, another retired miner, said, "We remember miners who suffer from addiction or depression. Some miners become hooked on drugs to relieve their pain, or get addicted to alcohol to escape their problems. Addictions and depression act like a prison, keeping some miners locked up."
Daniel Kane, the national UMW sSecretary-treasurer, and Skeeter Lowe, a miner from UMW Local 5958 in Logan, laid a ceremonial dinner bucket and miner's helmet at the base of the West Virginia Coal Miner statue.
"The faith community has been so good in supporting us," Kane said. "Many of us left our health buried in the coal mines. . . . We will not stop this fight until we have won. And we need to stand up for all workers across this country and across the world."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.