RACINE, W.Va. -- The deteriorating economic position of coal miners and other middle class Americans requires more picket lines and vigorous protests.
That was the main message United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts delivered during the annual Labor Day picnic held in Racine in Boone County.
Hundreds of miners and their families attended the Racine rally, which also featured delicious pork barbecue and hot sauce.
Joe Carter, president of Charleston-based UMW District 17, hosted the event.
"This is a day we all gather to enjoy ourselves and meet old friends. And it is a day that exists to recognize working peoples' contributions to this country."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told the crowd at John Slack Park, "The United States is one of the strongest countries in the world because of coal miners. You have made our state strong and our country strong."
Severance taxes on coal, Tomblin said, help West Virginia pay its bills and keep its state pension programs solvent.
Tomblin criticized the "attack on coal from the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. I will not stand by and let them destroy our jobs. Recently, we have won cases four times in federal courts."
In the upcoming Nov. 6 election, Tomblin faces Bill Maloney, a Republican businessman in Morgantown.
"We have to fight the big money coming in from out of state. Just 20 or 25 percent of people voting will not cut it," Tomblin said, urging people to get their friends out to vote. Early voting begins 10 days before Election Day.
Letitia "Tish" Chafin, a Democrat endorsed by the UMW for state Supreme Court, said, "I am so proud to have support from the union. You are what makes this state move."
Cecil Roberts said, "The middle class was built by organized labor."
Referring to Massey Energy's former president, Roberts said, "Don Blankenship used to be king. We're here today and Don Blankenship is gone."
Blankenship played a major role in increasing the number of non-union miners in West Virginia when he was a top Massey executive, before Alpha Natural Resources bought the company in June 2011.
Roberts also focused on the union's current efforts to keep health care for 22,000 retired miners now associated with Patriot Coal.