US coal miners call on Trump to move on

US coal’s decline has accelerated in recent years. (Image: ArtTower | Pixabay.)

Support from coal miners helped Donald Trump win the US presidency four years ago. Now, the leader of the nation’s top mining union is calling on Trump to “move on”, adding that ongoing efforts to challenge vote counts and pressure state elections officials are a “threat to our entire form of government and the American way of life.”

While the US General Services Administration — the federal agency that allows the transition process to begin — said late on Monday President-elect Joe Biden’s team could get in touch to begin changeover, Trump continues to hold on to power.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday he would soon present evidence of widespread ballot fraud and other wrongdoing in “great detail” in a “big lawsuit”. 

The president of the United Mine Workers of America International (UMW or UMWA), Cecil E. Roberts, said Trump’s relentless denial of Biden’s victory is putting the US on a path to subvert “the very foundation of what actually does make America great — government of, by and for the people.”

“The cockamamie notion that there was some plot launched in a failed state in South America that somehow affected the count of millions of voters is just absurd,” Roberts said in a statement issued Friday.

“Whether you like the outcome or not, the American people have spoken, and their will must now be placed ahead of everything else.”

The union, which represents around 80,000 mine workers, did not endorse a presidential candidate this year.

Digging coal, but down

Trump’s campaign vowed to “give back” coal miners their lost jobs, but that promise was never fulfilled. During the July-September period, the coal sector recorded a new low in average employment with just 40,458 posts, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“Despite a slight increase in coal production in the third quarter compared to the previous one, average coal mining employment fell 23.6% from the first quarter of 2017, when Trump took office, to the most recent quarter,” S&P Global reported.

While Trump stocked his administration with coal-industry executives and lobbyists, took hefty donations from the industry and rolled back environmental regulations, coal’s decline only accelerated in recent years.

Production of the commodity was down 31.5% in the third quarter of the year compared to the first quarter of 2017, when Trump took office.

Total production in 2020 is expected to decline to 511 million tonnes, down from 775 million tonnes in 2017. That 34% fall is the largest four-year production drop since at least 1932, data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows.

Exacerbated by the effects of disruptions related to the spread of covid-19 , the industry downturn has translated into 5,300 coal mining jobs, or nearly 10%, being eliminated during Trump’s administration.