Justin Marcum, labor caucus chairman for the West Virginia Young Democrats, spoke to the Mingo County Commission (MCC) at their regular meeting about Coal Miner Appreciation Day, which has been designated by the commission as the last Sunday before Labor Day.
Marcum authored the proclamation, and read it to the commission.
“Mingo County coal miners are hard laborers, who continue to support their communities,” Marcum said. “Coal mining accounts for 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in West Virginia. Miners are hard working, dedicated and loyal West Virginians, and are a vital asset to the state.”
The commission unanimously agreed. The declaration will go to Governor Joe Manchin’s office as well as the West Virginia congressional delegation.
MCC President John Mark Hubbard spoke about the negative image coal has recently garnered at the national level.
“Never before have I seen mining criminalized like it has been in the last few years,” Hubbard said. “I do not know if the people of our county realize the importance of mining in providing services to our citizens. Mingo is the third largest producer of coal in West Virginia. We are blessed, both currently and as part of our heritage, to have an industry that we can be proud of.”
All three county commissioners were raised by coal-mining fathers, they said, and are proud of that fact.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith shared a personal story about his father.
“I was an ornery youngun’, I was,” Smith said. “One time, my grades were really good, I had made all As. But my teacher left my conduct grade blank. She said she didn’t want to ruin a perfect report card.”
Smith said his mother called his father at work, where he was a boss at a coal mine.
“It was probably a felony, what he did,” Smith remembered. “He put a hard hat on me, and took me underground. As a teenager, at first, I thought it was cool, like a field trip. Then, he turned off the lights on the equipment, on our hard hats. It was completely dark, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I was terrified He said, ‘Son, this is how I support you and our family. Can you do this?’”
Smith said he told his father, “No sir.”
“From that day, I have had such respect for my father and my grandfather before him and the coal miners that work so that we can flip our lights on. I feel it is a great honor to pass this resolution today.”