UMWA rallies in Waynesburg while Greene County’s miner garner international attention

United Mine Workers of America march down Route 21 in Waynesburg to the Greene County Fairgrounds for a solidarity rally on April 1, 2016. Photo:Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Thousands of union miners visited Greene County in April, marching down Route 21 before rallying at the county fairgrounds, demanding that the federal government find a solution to preserve the United Miner Workers of America’s ailing pension fund and health care benefits.

Throughout the year, the UMWA fought for Congress to support the Miners Protection Act that would provide funding to the ailing health care and pension funds using excess money in the Abandoned Mine Land Fund. Despite bipartisan support, the Senate failed to vote on the bill in December, instead pushing the legislation into next year where its fate is unknown.

Meanwhile, films crews from Germany, France, Japan, Israel and several other countries focused their cameras on the region’s unemployed coal miners.

Last year’s closure of Alpha Energy’s Emerald Mine near Waynesburg led to 235 miners losing their jobs, and many of them have struggled to find work since in the struggling coal industry. Many of the international journalists visited the region during the summer to report on the future of coal mining and how it could impact the presidential election. Republican Donald Trump overwhelmingly won Greene County in his successful bid for the presidency.