Saturday, October 08, 2016

Advocate for coal communities

Dear Clint,
There’s a crisis happening right now in coal communities across the nation. Working people are being laid off from their jobs at a catastrophic scale, losing critical health and retirement benefits while coal executives cash out multi-million dollar bonuses even as their companies declare bankruptcy.

These are the working people who for generations have sacrificed their health, their safety, and even their lives to keep America’s power on. Now they need our help.
As the nation shifts to clean energy, these working people deserve better than to be simply tossed aside.

The good news is that right now, there are multiple bills before Congress that would provide meaningful relief for coal workers, their families, and their communities. The bad news? It’s difficult to count on Congress to get much done these days, particularly before an election. 

I can tell you first-hand how bad it is out there.

This summer I traveled to the town of Gillette, Wyoming, the epicenter of western coal country, to interview workers who had been laid off. What I saw was heartbreaking. 

Hundreds of homes had been abandoned. Restaurants and shopping areas were like ghost towns. And just about everywhere, somebody had a story about how the layoffs had affected the community. 

One worker named Shawn, an Iraq war veteran and dedicated family man, kept a tough exterior when sharing his story, but broke down in tears talking about a friend who “took it too hard” when he lost his job. Shawn didn’t elaborate any further on what happened to his friend. 

Clint and Branden didn’t hold back their anger in talking about coal company executives who awarded themselves huge bonuses while laying off thousands of workers.  

“They could have kept a hell of a lot of people for as much money as they put out to their executives,” Clint said. 

Polly, a laid off haul truck driver who now works as an assistant cook at a school in town, was just a few years away from retirement when she was laid off. “I’m in a really bad situation. This wasn’t the plan,” Polly said, “The plan was to support myself finally and feel good about myself and now I’m going ‘You’re such a loser,’ and I’m not! It’s not my fault. I mean, I show up to work every day.”
These coal communities are in dire straits and they feel like their struggle is largely invisible to the rest of the country. Let’s show these workers that we have their back. 

There are multiple bills that have already been introduced that would help these workers. All Congress needs to do is vote. 

Together, we can make sure these workers aren’t left behind as we move towards a clean energy economy. 

Thanks so much. 
In solidarity,
Ian Pajer-Rogers
Director of Communications
Interfaith Worker Justice

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