March organizers who spoke at a news conference Saturday said they wanted to get the UMW more involved with the event.
"We must work to make the United Mine Workers realize that this is a UMW issue as well and urge them to get on board," said Ken Hechler, former congressman and secretary of state.
UMW members should support the abolition of mountaintop removal mining, in part because those mines cut employment, said Perry Still, a retired coal miner and UMW member in Matewan.
In Boone County, the state's largest coal county, 2,053 miners working in underground mines produce more than 10 million tons of coal a year, Still said. The county's 1,086 surface miners produce nearly 12 million tons.
"I would like to see the leaders in our union join our protest," Still said.
Last month, UMW President Cecil Roberts wrote in The Charleston Gazette, "Blair Mountain is as close to sacred ground as there is for the UMWA. Though we may not physically own the mountain's land, its legacy is ours. ... We strongly support its preservation, for it represents the power ordinary people have when they decide to stick together and take up common struggle for the benefit of all."
Chuck Nelson, who grew up along the Coal River in Boone County, worked in the mines for 29 years, including eight years as a non-union miner after Massey Energy bought the mine where he worked.
"Massey was reluctant to hire union miners," Nelson said. "Massey brought people in from outside the area. Today, our towns are turning into ghost towns. And mountaintop removal mining is also destroying our communities."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.