Mine workers stay neutral in presidential race

The United Mine Workers union is staying neutral, so far, in the presidential race between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the union’s spokesman has told Press Associates Union News Service.

“We have not endorsed anyone in the presidential election and have no plans to do so at this time,” communications director Phil Smith said in an email in mid-June. Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts was “not in Florida when the AFL-CIO endorsement was made,” he added, due to a death in Roberts’ family.

The governing council of the union’s campaign finance committee, or PAC, backed Smith’s comment and added Romney is unacceptable so far, too.

“Neither candidate has yet demonstrated he will be on the side of UMWA members and their families as president. We will continue to examine the candidates’ positions on all issues of importance to our members and American working families as the campaign progresses,” its statement said.

The Mine Workers move is important. The union, while smaller than in its heyday under legendary leader John L. Lewis, still has influence among miners, their families, and its retirees – who now outnumber active UMWA members – in Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and southern Illinois, among other states.

Ironically, Roberts’ predecessor is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who called for the federation’s endorsement of Obama at the union leaders’ executive council meeting. Trumka, despite differences with the president, backs Obama.

While neither Smith nor the PAC committee elaborated on Obama’s failings, Roberts had a few choice words for the president’s Environmental Protection Agency in a local radio interview several weeks ago in West Virginia.

“The Navy SEALs shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and” EPA administrator “Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington,” he told MetroNews Talkline. Roberts said Jackson’s EPA is proposing new anti-pollution rules that would effectively end construction of any new coal-fired electric power plants in the U.S.

The Mine Workers’ stand makes them one of two unions known to have taken no position, officially or unofficially, on the presidential race. The other is the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, an independent union.

Photo: Mine workers in Pittsburgh. America’s Power // CC 2.0


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.