June 29, 2022

As an Industry Faces Destruction, It Grows a Voting Coalition

FRIEDENS, Pennsylvania — Imagine if you had a job. A good job, one that required skill and critical thinking and had a broad impact in the community where you lived. A job you didn’t just show up to do. It was a job you were good at, and because of it, you were able to provide a roof over your family’s head, put your children through college or help pay for their wedding, and once a year, it gave you the ability to carve out a week or two to take the family on vacation.

Now imagine that job becomes the center of political debate, one far removed from the Laurel Mountains, where this town sits. Within two decades, your profession goes from being championed by the Democratic Party and labor officials to one that they want to destroy.

John Fisher and Harvey Charles were standing outside of the Acosta Mine mechanic station here in Somerset County. Both still had traces of coal dust on their hands and faces. Both had just finished their shifts and were cleaning up themselves and their equipment. Fisher works in the mine; Charles transports the coal.

Fisher has been doing this job since 1989, when he returned home after serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. The 52-year-old says he travels 67 miles one way every day from his home in Cherry Tree in Clearfield County to do his job at the mine.

He describes his day, which begins not with walking into the mine, but crawling.

“I get here, what? 4:30 a.m. Make sure everything’s running. Then, I go underground and fix what’s broken. All over, in the pots, in the slop, in the bad roof, in the good roof.” He explains all the vulnerabilities that exist in a mine that require monitoring and daily repairs.

Here, metallurgical coal gets mined. It is used exclusively for the steel production that supports the construction of bridges, roads, highways, homes, factories, distribution centers, churches and other businesses supporting the country’s infrastructure and economy.

Fisher explains the core business here is producing and selling metallurgical coal to domestic and international steel and coke (a porous fuel) producers: “It’s a good living. I like what I do, or I would not be doing it.”

So does Charles, who says he’s been in the industry since 1987. “Right out of high school, I followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather.”

“I used to be the maintenance foreman. Now I’m just a truck mechanic,” he said of his job to make sure all of the massive dump trucks used to haul the coal out of the hollow are in working order.

They acknowledge their industry is in the center of a political storm and their fate does not rely on how many improvements the industry does to make it clean. “Politicians and the press need a good guy and a bad guy to either win a race or tell a story. We used to be the good guys that everyone stood up for,” Fisher says and then shrugs.

“Now we are the bad guys.”

Pick up the daily newspaper and you will find mining will get blamed for everything from the growth of the deer tick population to last year’s mild winter (this winter has not been mild).

Several things bother Fisher and Charles regarding how others look upon those in the mining industry. One is the stereotype of anyone in their business as either anti-intellectual or anti-clean environment. The former they consider insulting, the latter ridiculous.

“Not only do we drink the water and breathe the air here, but we also hunt, fish and swim here. We are the first people who want whatever we do here to be safe,” Fisher said. It is a common refrain from energy workers across the country.

The other thing that gets under their skin is when politicians flippantly suggest they can quickly get another job. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said people who lost their job to climate justice might find a climate-conscious job.

And President Joe Biden suggested coal miners should just learn to code. Last year in New Hampshire, in the middle of a brag of how former President Barack Obama had placed him in charge of judging what the jobs of the future would be, he said, “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well.”

It is still astounding to witness the contempt and disdain politicians and the press have toward the lives and livelihoods of people who aren’t like them, people who don’t live in their ZIP codes or attend the same universities they did.

People who work with their hands don’t start a conversation by asking you where you work. It is rare to find anyone here who would say your profession is irredeemable and that you need to do something they find worthy. Traditionally, when a job or an industry has a problem, they work on fixing it or correcting it rather than destroying it.

People often asked after the 2020 election what will happen with the Trump voters (Fisher and Charles voted for him twice). The thing is this complex conservative populist coalition existed long before it helped catapult Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016.

His win was, in part, the result of a culture that became detached from the people they served in various institutions, whether it was the government, the entertainment industry or the college campus. Many people ultimately rejected all of them.

But if you never understood that, if you always thought it was about Trump, you never understood who they were and why they vote the way they do.

And you never understood how someone who lives in the suburbs of Arizona or Kenosha, Wisconsin, or Miami could have anything in common with someone who works the mines in Appalachia. And you didn’t understand that because you didn’t care to, because you hoped for its destruction.

There will be two endings to this story. The first is industries such as coal or shale, or the creation of pipelines, will continue to get attacked and dismantled, costing people their jobs. As Fisher said, politicians and the press always need a bad guy.

And the other ending is this coalition will grow — despite the press incorrectly believing one person caused it and having the audacity to think they have the power to dismantle it.

Salena Zito is a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
0 0 votes
Article Rating

This is a demo advert, you can use simple text, HTML image or any Ad Service JavaScript code. If you're inserting HTML or JS code make sure editor is switched to 'Text' mode.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

arlene hovey (@guest_1161125)
1 year ago

Well said, & how true.

Texas Tea Partier (@guest_1161148)
1 year ago

Well, there are 74 million of us and growing. Trump was not lying to you. It is up to you to recognize the truth and realize that what he was saying made a lot of common sense. He was always trying to improve things for you and your family, not him and his family. He did not get into politics to line his pockets like all those long-term D.C. swamp rats.

Shamoo (@guest_1161186)
Reply to  Texas Tea Partier
1 year ago

I used to spelunker.
I have been down inside a few of the old mines, and if it were possible, I would make buttgigger and slojoe go down and see what kind of world they are bashing.
I grew up with friends who lived in the mining world, and these people are proud, stallworth non arrogant, incredibly sensitive, humble, selfless people, and I have met a lot of them.
We as American citizens, have the guaranteed right to Fire people like Joe, and Buttlicker. It is in our constitution. Located on or around page 7 or 8. READ IT!!!

Jesse (@guest_1161154)
1 year ago

This is so true and why Trump got the support he did and why his election was stolen from him, as well as the Senate run off in Georgia. The Democrats and those that support and follow them are like lemmings who follow them off the cliffs. They have no awareness of what it takes to change fossil fuel energy to clean energy and how to do it with consideration for the people who work in those industries and themselves for what it will be like without those energies when they are needed. The saying that God watches over drunks and fools is not in the Bible and isn’t true.

Shamoo (@guest_1161198)
Reply to  Jesse
1 year ago

God condems those who would call anyone a fool.
He does not condem drunks, in fact, he may hate what we do but he loves us all. He wants us to accept him, and more.
Look, Saul was a Roman, pretty much a pagan if you will. But God blinded Saul, and after learning that he was wrong for all of the cruel and hateful things he did to the Jews, and accepted God, his eyesight was restored, and his name was changed by God, to Paul.
No, it’s those who turn their backs to God, it’s those who blaspheme God’s will. You have much Bible reading to do.
But time is so short now.
10, maybe 15 years are all we have left, maybe even less. What is to come will be horrifying to many. We ain’t seen nuthin yet! Buckle up the ride is just started. I suggest you start with Revelations because time is so short. If you have questions find somebody and ask talk to people I can tell you this statue of liberty it’s a great horror the five rays on her head are the five governments. Biden is shutting down everything he can to hurt the world. It’s in the Bible it’s in Revelations he’s going to shut down our shipping our coastal shipping. And much much more.

Jandson (@guest_1161257)
Reply to  Jesse
1 year ago

Watch and share. https://michaeljlindell.com/

Frank Caputo (@guest_1161336)
1 year ago

I agree with Shamoo. Both slojoe and pete, along with many othercabinet members should be fire for ruin the United States of America. What o they care they are being paid with your tax dollars. What a shame. Sometime slojoe doesn’t know what he is saying. Doesn’t his Dr. wife feel sorry for him? To go through this life?

Shamoo (@guest_1161356)
1 year ago

I just noticed that some words got replaced with other words. In my message.
The statue of liberty is “the great whore. She wears a crown with seven (7) spikes. Those are the (7) seven governments.

Add Link (@guest_1208355)
1 year ago

We just couldnt leave your website before saying that we really enjoyed the useful information you offer to your visitors Will be back soon to check up on new stuff you post!

We Love Google :) (@guest_1212589)
1 year ago

Interesting approach towards this. Wondering what you think of its implication on society as a whole though? Sometimes people get a little upset with global expansion. Ill check back to see what you have to say.

Ekonomia Podaż (@guest_1214620)
1 year ago

I discovered countless interesting stuff in your weblog particularly its conversation. From the numerous comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one getting all of the fun here! keep up the good work.

Javiernop (@guest_1235004)
1 year ago

tider , tinder login
browse tinder for free

Javiernop (@guest_1247167)
1 year ago

tinder date , tindr
what is tinder



Sign Up For The Daily Newsletter


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x