vigil

Local 8843 miners stand to be recognized at a prayer vigil for former Cannelton Industries/Horizon Natural Resources workers Monday in the WVU Tech engineering auditorium.

Local union miners haven’t abandoned their fight against a company they say abandoned them.

And, over the past couple of years, displaced Cannelton Industries/Horizon Natural Resources employees have gotten a strong ally in local churches and their pastors.

Several of those ministers, as well as local and regional UMWA officials, gathered Monday on the campus of WVU Tech for a prayer vigil for the approximately 250 miners — many represented by Union 8843 — who lost their jobs when Massey Energy bought Horizon’s Cannelton operation in bankruptcy court in 2004 and renamed it the Mammoth mine before resuming operations with non-union workers.

The vigil was staged on the day an administration law judge was supposed to begin a trial on the matter in Montgomery.

According to Donnie Samms, deputy director of the UMWA’s Region 2 office, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Massey was discriminatory in its hiring practices in the Horizon situation. Massey appealed that finding to an administrative law judge. The scheduled trial was postponed for two weeks; it will now begin Monday, Jan. 22 at 1 p.m. Samms said it will involve five weeks of hearings in a 10-week period.

During the vigil, speaker after speaker decried the fashion in which Massey shut out veteran employees in favor of non-union hires.

“They refused to hire us,” said William “Bolts” Willis, Union 8843 president. “This has been a struggle for two years now, and we’ll continue to fight.

“This is a clear-cut case that we’ve been wronged by this company.”

Bob Phalen, retired District 17 president, said the Massey situation was “an example of what corporate America has done to the working people in this country the last 25 years.”

Many speakers, including several clergymen, said that, in time of need, the miners, their families and union officers need to appeal to a higher power in their battle against the corporation.

While uniting their forces is key, the Rev. Mahlon Dungey of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church urged the workers, “Don’t leave God out.”

Bishop Paul Rose, pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ in Ohley, said, “I believe God is on our side. We know justice will be done, because (God) is on the side of justice, the poor and the oppressed.”

Several speakers made reference to mine wars in Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in the 1900s.

Rev. Paul Young, pastor of the Alta Church of God and a veteran member of Local 8843, lamented that the concept of Cannelton as a “family thing” has gone by the wayside.

The wife of a local miner thanked the ministers for their continued support.

A six-person community impact board said in a December 2004 report that Massey had a “moral obligation” to rehire union workers.

At the time, Massey officials said the company would consider “any and all qualified workers” for the jobs. Samms said 18 former Horizon workers were hired at the Mammoth site.

— E-mail:

skeenan@fayettetribune.com

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