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New Miner Safety Initiative from MSHA

Black Lung is Killing Miners Again, and Government is FINALLY Responding


The Young Miners Dying of “An Old Man’s Disease”

By Kim Kelly - In These Times, May 17, 2023

Black lung is completely preventable. And it’s on the rise again.

“Is that the wind you hear howlin’ through the holler?
Or the ghost of a widow that cries?
For every man that died for a coal company dollar
A lung full of dust and a heart full of lies”
—“It’s About Blood,” Steve Earle (2020)

Adaptation is a way of life for John Moore. He’s worked construction, run a wig shop and now promotes concerts. The wig shop idea came to him because his middle daughter was having trouble styling her thick, curly hair. He didn’t know much about wigs, or hair in general, so he learned and started turning a profit soon after the grand opening. That’s the kind of man he is — someone who’s always looking out for the next opportunity, the next chance to make it.

When we meet, Moore is wearing a black puffer jacket, a black durag, work boots and a cautious smile. He’s soft-spoken but firm, and he lights up when he talks about his wife and three kids. At a glance, he seems strong, the kind of person who can win an arm-wrestling contest or help you move — like a man with a lot of living left to do.

But instead, Moore, at only 42, is dying of black lung disease.

You see, Moore’s résumé also includes a few lines familiar to many people in Central Appalachia. He spent about 11 years running coal and clearing debris in the mines of Southern West Virginia. During that time, a cruel disease took up residence inside his chest cavity. Now, it is slowly destroying him from the inside.

He’s not alone. Across Central Appalachia — and specifically Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia — coal miners are struggling to breathe. Many of them aren’t much older than Moore — and many are much younger. Journalist Howard Berkes investigated the spike in a series for NPR in 2012, and multiple studies before and after have shown black lung (known more formally as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or CWP) has been on the rise for the past decade.

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In Coal Country, Young Workers Seek a Sustainable Future

By Jonathan Blair - In These Times, March 8, 2023

This article, republished from the Daily Yonder, is part of a series of photo essays created for the American Creed ​“Citizen Power” multi-platform documentary initiative exploring American idealism and community leadership from a range of young adult perspectives. 

Jonathan Blair lives, works, and studies at Alice Lloyd College, in Eastern Kentucky. He coordinates a work-study crew of about 60 people, mostly first-generation college students from rural Appalachia. Blair and two of his crew members — Jacob Frazier and Carlos Villanueva — document their connection to blue-collar work in and around the Appalachian coal industry, and they reflect on their hopes for the region. 

Explore more of Jonathan Blair’s story here.

My grandfathers on both sides were coal miners. My father is a mechanic for one of the railroads that transport coal. Basically, ever since our family has been in these hills, the coal business has put food on our table, and that’s the case for most families in our region. Even if it’s not why they came here, it kind of became what they did, because that was what paid, and you’re going to do whatever it takes. 

Survival is a big aspect of Appalachian culture. For a long time, coal meant survival, but there was never a sense of stability because the coal business is like a light switch: It’s either ​“on” or ​“off.” And when that switch was off, a lot of people, like my grandpa, would find manufacturing jobs elsewhere, in Ohio and other places. And whenever the coal business picked back up, they would come back, because this is home. Today, you look around and you can see the mountaintops have been removed to extract the coal from them, and much of the coal that was deep in the ground is gone. The coal business is a phantom, a shadow of what it used to be. We can’t rely on it coming back to what it once was.

The Future of Energy and Work in the United States: The American Oil and Gas Worker Survey

By Megan Milliken Biven and Leo Lindner - True Transition, March 2023

At the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, we circulated a cross sectional survey via social media platforms and through word of mouth. In total, 1,635 workers completed the survey. While responses revealed shared themes, such as the desire for employment stability, workers who participated in the survey were not a monolith. Workers ex- pressed unique and individual views specific to their career and life experiences, oftentimes revealing contradictions that all humans possess. No one is perfectly consistent and respondents to this survey are no different in that regard. One recurring theme, however, emerged. Workers ex- pressed gratitude for the opportunity to say their piece to a larger audience. As one survey respondent said, “I wish people knew our stories.”

Of course, a few dozen questions can only tell part of a story. We followed up with several survey participants to ask additional questions and learn more about their individual experience and attitudes towards their work and the future of the industry in their own words. We feature those conversations throughout this report as case studies.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).


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