As Mrs. Hudson points out, she lives in Virginia in their second home, a luxury we don’t have (thanks for pointing out this glaring difference between the lifestyle of a union rank-and-file family and the lifestyle of a union official's family). I’m sure if she lived in southern West Virginia now, she would see how it has changed in the 24 years since she left.
She echoes my sentiments when she says, “How insulted and outraged she was.” That is exactly how I felt when I saw United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts with the coal bosses and operators in Logan. Then, to add insult to injury, he says, “Who is it that doesn’t want you to keep your job?”
To Mrs. Hudson and others, I say this: Please don’t portray us as out-of-state environmentalists, which is what the coal companies call us, just because we don’t want our communities destroyed, our homes devalued and our water supplies poisoned. Please don’t try and speak for us by saying we’re against ALL coal mining just because we don’t want people’s lives and homes destroyed.
I wonder if Mrs. Hudson would complain if she had blasting tearing up her home or coal dust in her attic so thick that there is a danger of explosion?
I have been to many union marches, protests and speeches. I have heard Mr. Roberts myself say how he is for the retirees, their families and their communities.
I will ask again: What about the retirees, their families and their widows living below these mountaintop removal sites and sludge dams? What are they supposed to do? They are truly making a sacrifice in their golden years.
What about the school-age children who sleep fully clothed when it rains because they live in fear that one of the huge, billion-gallon dams might break or overflow?
What about the walking dead who have been poisoned from sludge injections seeping into their wells?
That is why I invited Mr. Roberts to the coal communities - NOT the coal mines. There is more to southern West Virginia than the coal mines. There are people who live here, too! I would love for Mr. Roberts to come and talk to affected people who live here. If he believes these communities are safe, then he must be listening to officials from the coal companies rather than the people in the communities.
Mrs. Hudson talked about the sacrifices her children have made because their father traveled to make this a better union. She should remember that without the rank-and-file coal miners, her husband wouldn’t have his job. She even went as far as to say she would gladly change places with us, as if we’re sitting on our laurels and doing nothing.
Then again, I guess she doesn’t know what is going on here considering she has been living in a luxurious home in Virginia. So, I will provide some insight into the life of a rank-and-file, union coal miner’s wife who lives in the West Virginia coalfields.
I have been on the picket lines with my husband and his co-workers helping protect their jobs during strikes. I was there in the rain, sleet, snow or heat. Another union wife and I had a gun pointed right in our faces just for daring to stand on a picket line. Three of us from local 6426 worked on Operation Joy to make sure that all of those children had at least something for Christmas that year.
I have worked since 1989 to make our roads safe from coal trucks. My children were videoed by Massey workers every evening right in their yards because of my stance. The magistrates told us we couldn’t do anything about it. My sons were only 7 and 2 years old at that time. I was followed for months every time I left my home with my sons. Did Mrs. Hudson and her sons ever have to worry about that?
I also worked with the union for more than two years to make sure we got an enforcement law on overweight, unsafe coal trucks. I lost those years with my family, too, not to mention the threats that I received in my home and on the roads. Most recently, I have tried to help miners fight Peabody for not reporting their injuries to Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Now let’s address more sacrifices that my family has made. My husband has been injured so many times I can’t write all of them here. He has herniated and bulging discs from his neck all the way down his back. Both of his knees are gone, and he was diagnosed with 15 percent black lung in 1993. His last accident wasn’t reported to MSHA, and he received two checks before Peabody cut him off. His doctor says a fall or a hit on the head could cause him to be paralyzed from his neck down. My husband has been beaten down enough by coal. So, if you want to bash someone, please leave him out of it.
For two years, we lived literally from hand to mouth. My youngest son was in his senior year of high school and without the help of good friends I wouldn’t have been able to afford his cap and gown. Did Mrs. Hudson's sons ever have to go through that sacrifice? I had to choose between paying bills and buying food. Thank God for every man and woman at local 6426 for donating to us in our time of need. When we asked people at the district office for help, they told us they didn’t have anything set up to help us. That is the truth, and I would love to see this changed. That way, no other union family has to endure what my family did.
Mrs. Hudson stated that she and her husband’s grandparents lived on a union pension and healthcare. I’m truly glad for them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that pleasure because I lost my grandfather when my mother was three years old. He was killed in the Blair Mountain March, fighting for this union.
So, yes, Mrs. Hudson and I are both union, but we don’t always agree. Does that mean we aren’t a good union family if we disagree with Mr. Roberts on one thing? The union that I loved had compassion for the union families and their communities.
May God bless Mrs. Hudson’s and Mr. Roberts’s families. I pray one day soon you all will see what those of us who live in the coalfields are talking about.