On April 1, I, along with thousands of other coal miners and their families from all across West Virginia, rallied in downtown Charleston. Our message was clear: Peabody, Arch and Patriot must live up to their obligations to 23,000 active and retired miners, their families and widows.
While thousands of concerned miners and their families marched the streets of Charleston to have their voices heard, it also occurs to me that Friends of Coal has remained silent on the matter.
I have taken note of the organization's mission to "inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry and its vital role in the state's future" and "provide a united voice for an industry that has been and remains a critical economic contributor to West Virginia."
Consequently, it would seem imperative that Friends of Coal stand with the active and retired miners in pointing out the injustice of the creation of Patriot Coal, now bankrupt, to avoid paying promised benefits to retired miners and their families.
Clearly, this action is an affront to all coal miners in West Virginia and throughout the country. As was stated in House Resolution 28, adopted by the House of Delegates on March 25, the loss of promised health care and retirement benefits jeopardizes the health and security of UMWA active, laid off and retired members and their dependants. The loss of promised health care and retirement benefits, if not addressed, could push many local communities into a financial crisis.
The Friends of Coal's mission notes that, "by working together, we can provide good jobs and benefits for future generations, which will keep our children and grandchildren close to home."
I couldn't agree more. That is why I am confident Friends of Coal will join us in our struggle to ensure these good jobs and benefits do exist for future generations, so that we can keep our children and grandchildren close to home.
I am asking Friends of Coal to publicly announce its unwavering support for these miners and their families, and call on Peabody, Arch and Patriot to keep the promises of generations.
As former UMWA president and current president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka said during that recent rally in Charleston, you can't be a friend of coal if you're not a friend of coal miners, and you can't be a friend of coal miners if you do nothing while these companies take away their health care and benefits.
I hope Friends of Coal lives up to its name.
Caputo, D-Marion, is majority whip in the House of Delegates and a coal miner who now serves as UMWA District 31 international vice president.