Over the past two days, I’ve taken a road trip through some of the most beautiful parts of our country — and had some tough and poignant conversations.
I’ve met with families in coal communities who deserve our gratitude for the work their parents and grandparents did to build this country. I’ve talked to steelworkers who are frustrated that China gets away with undercutting our jobs and businesses. And I’ve heard from railroaders who are watching the decline in steel and coal cut the region off from future jobs.
From the hills of Kentucky to the coal fields of West Virginia to the small towns of Ohio, Appalachia is a vital part of the United States. Yet too often, the people across this region aren’t treated that way.
For generations, Appalachian coal kept the lights on in people’s homes and schools and kept assembly lines rolling in factories. The region’s steel plants helped build our skyscrapers, and its chemical plants made the products that shape modern life.These jobs were tough. More than 100,000 miners died on the job in the 20th century, and more than twice that many succumbed to black lung disease. The United Mine Workers put their lives on the line to protect miners on the job and in retirement — and their hard-won victories have helped strengthen the labor movement in other industries nationwide.