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Coal miners’ union lobbies for jobs in renewable energy

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Neu California
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Coal miners’ union lobbies for jobs in renewable energy

Postby Neu California » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:45 am

Ars Technica wrote:What if the British crown had offered the Luddites a retraining program and the promise of good-paying factory jobs? Perhaps they would have accepted the textile transition?

That’s essentially what the nation’s largest coal miner union is suggesting. In exchange for job retraining, wage replacement, and preferential hiring for out-of-work coal miners, the United Mine Workers of America would support the transition away from carbon-polluting fossil fuels. It’s also calling for tax incentives to build portions of the renewable energy supply chain in coal country.

“We’ll take good paying jobs any way we can get them,” said Cecil Roberts, the president of the UMWA, in a talk hosted by the National Press Club. “The government has not done a good job, if at all, managing what’s going on in the coal fields,” he said, citing rounds of layoffs and mine closures.

“Ensuring our coal miners aren’t left behind as America transitions to a cleaner energy future is one of my top priorities,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) at the event. “While the industry has been in a steady downturn in job opportunities, maintaining those good-paying jobs as we reduce emissions is both possible and it’s our responsibility.”

Employment in coal mines has plummeted in recent years—it’s less than half what it was a decade ago, down to 44,000 at the end of last year. The decline has come as natural gas and renewable sources like wind and solar have displaced coal in the electrical grid. Natural gas has been the main driver. Between 2009-2019, the share of electricity generated by coal in the US dropped from 46 percent to 20 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration. Natural gas rose from 22 percent to 39 percent, while solar and wind increased from 2 percent to 11 percent.

To claw back some of that share, the UMWA plan prioritizes carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), calling for a utility-scale coal plant with CCS to be operational by 2030. The Biden administration's infrastructure plan supports CCS, but even with that, the UMWA's timeline might be ambitious, since companies have abandoned two US commercial CCS plants that burned coal. And given coal’s precipitous decline over the last decade, 2030 may not be soon enough to have a significant impact on mine employment. The union seems to acknowledge that, with its plan also calling for more US production of steel, which uses high-quality coal, and creating additional markets for “alternative products from coal.”

But even if coal production were to stabilize, it wouldn’t be enough to rehire the tens of thousands of miners that have been laid off. To that end, the union’s plan calls for job retraining programs and the “build-out of renewable supply-chain manufacturing in coalfield areas” and to “provide hiring preference for dislocated miners and families.” The UMWA also suggests that out-of-work miners could process coal waste to extract critical minerals, and Roberts said that he’s hopeful that coal country will become a significant manufacturing hub.

Manchin suggested that pieces of the electric vehicle supply chain could be moved into the region to add jobs, particularly in the area of battery manufacturing. The US has not taken adequate steps to make batteries domestically, he said. “It’s a shame that we’ve gone down this path, but we’ve made no provisions at all to manufacture and have the right resources it takes to manufacture batteries,” Manchin said.


To this, I say good. Coal is dying and the sooner the coal miners realize it and transition to new, better paying, less dangerous jobs, the better off everyone will be economically, especially the coal miners (who will also have the benefit of improved health once they're permanently out of the shaft. Black lung is nasty).

But what say you residents of NSG? Is retraining coal miners to work in the renewable sector a good idea or not?
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An Alan Smithee Nation
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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:09 am

It seems a very sensible suggestion to me.
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Postby Dumb Ideologies » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:49 am

Any major economic transition requires very strong support from the government to mitigate the suffering that would otherwise be caused to people working in industries which are no longer viable at the previous scale. This is one of the foundational duties of government as an organising and enabling force for the wider flourishing of society.

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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Thu Apr 22, 2021 3:20 am

In the UK, Tony Blair tried to help the ex-mining communities that were suffering huge levels of unemployment after Margaret Thatcher largely destroyed the mining industry. Unfortunately it ended with most of the jobs being created in local government, which proved a rather short term solution as soon as the next Conservative government began its austerity programme. This seems like it will have a more long term future.
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Postby Gravlen » Thu Apr 22, 2021 3:28 am

Trump brought back clean coal, so I don't see the issue...
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Postby Page » Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:45 am

Coal miners get a lot of press coverage, but their situation isn't all that unique. Most middle-aged Americans who have been working these blue-collar jobs for decades have no hope of getting a new job with anything near the same pay or benefits. Capitalists know they can pay desperate zoomers whose degrees never worked out slave wages and they'll take them. And whatever new jobs these miners get will have shit pay, shit benefits, and their boss will make them implant a proverbial microchip in their genitals that keeps track of their urination to make sure they aren't using even a second more than necessary for bathroom breaks.

My mom for example works as a financial manager at a private school, she's had this job for over 20 years. She has an associate's degree and makes more than young people with master's degrees make in almost every entry position. If she lost her job, she will literally never have a chance to make more than half her income ever again. That's not all that different from what coal miners are facing.

Liberals demonize these miners and wonder why they all vote for Trump. They have more immediate concerns than the sustainability of coal, what they want is their money and their benefits.

Is this program a decent start? Sure, but more so than trying to make sure every person with an obsolete job has priority for whatever replaces it, we need to change the system so that people's health care and ability to feed themselves and have a roof over their head isn't dependent on their employment. Just health care alone essentially turns employees into hostages. If you're diabetic or have a chronic condition like lupus or mental illness problems and you need constant medication, and you will lose your insurance if you lose your job, your employer has you by the balls. They can cut your pay, make you breathe poison, sexually assault you, because they know you have no leverage.

Nationalize health care, implement strict rent control, abolidh student loan debt, and give everyone universal basic income. Then when we're completely done with coal, the miners won't mind because they'll have options, ad will everyone else.
Last edited by Page on Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:00 am

I was amazed that the Amazon workers voted against forming a union. The future of the job market is almost no permanent salaried jobs, with enormous competition for them, and huge qualification requirements. Everybody else working multiple short term contract jobs, with a quite a large proportion of those people still not being able to earn enough to live on despite holding down half a dozen jobs. Combine that with a reluctance to form unions and you basically give employers all the power.
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Postby Arisyan » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:39 am

Rocket Arena wrote:To protect workers the coal miners should be transferred. It would make sense anyways. Although renewable energy is a bit of a waste instead of opting for nuclear or hydro


Is anyone going to correct them? No, alright.

But yes, this has my full and absolute support.
Last edited by Arisyan on Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Cultural Posadism » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:04 am

Based coal miners' union. Coal capitalists and their politicians have been disingenuously using the prospect of coal miners losing their jobs as a sword of Damocles, and it's a relief that miners can see through the bullshit and know that they don't have to keep a horrible, obsolete industry on life support forever.
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Postby Cultural Posadism » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:06 am

An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:I was amazed that the Amazon workers voted against forming a union. The future of the job market is almost no permanent salaried jobs, with enormous competition for them, and huge qualification requirements. Everybody else working multiple short term contract jobs, with a quite a large proportion of those people still not being able to earn enough to live on despite holding down half a dozen jobs. Combine that with a reluctance to form unions and you basically give employers all the power.

The Amazon union thing was disheartening. The numbers don't lie: unionized workers enjoy much better working conditions. Contract jobs give the illusion of freedom while making you even more vulnerable to abuse and marginalization than a non-unionized employee.
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Postby Arisyan » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:08 am

An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:I was amazed that the Amazon workers voted against forming a union. The future of the job market is almost no permanent salaried jobs, with enormous competition for them, and huge qualification requirements. Everybody else working multiple short term contract jobs, with a quite a large proportion of those people still not being able to earn enough to live on despite holding down half a dozen jobs. Combine that with a reluctance to form unions and you basically give employers all the power.


Do we know the exact vote totals? I have a feeling Amazon may have rigged it.
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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:14 am

Arisyan wrote:
An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:I was amazed that the Amazon workers voted against forming a union. The future of the job market is almost no permanent salaried jobs, with enormous competition for them, and huge qualification requirements. Everybody else working multiple short term contract jobs, with a quite a large proportion of those people still not being able to earn enough to live on despite holding down half a dozen jobs. Combine that with a reluctance to form unions and you basically give employers all the power.


Do we know the exact vote totals? I have a feeling Amazon may have rigged it.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56695667

1798 to 738. I'm sure Amazon did everything they think they can get away with to influence the outcome, but the result seems too decisive to be purely the result of that.
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Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:04 am

Very good. Lets transition from coal to clean.

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Postby Seangoli » Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:22 am

Cultural Posadism wrote:Based coal miners' union. Coal capitalists and their politicians have been disingenuously using the prospect of coal miners losing their jobs as a sword of Damocles, and it's a relief that miners can see through the bullshit and know that they don't have to keep a horrible, obsolete industry on life support forever.


It probably has to do with the fact that even with one of the most coal-friendly administrations we have had in living memory, basically zero coal jobs were created. They likely still supported Trump to the bitter end, but it's a healthy dose of reality when nothing he did made.much of a meaningful impact on their employment. Sobering, basically.

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Postby Major-Tom » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:38 pm

An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:I was amazed that the Amazon workers voted against forming a union. The future of the job market is almost no permanent salaried jobs, with enormous competition for them, and huge qualification requirements. Everybody else working multiple short term contract jobs, with a quite a large proportion of those people still not being able to earn enough to live on despite holding down half a dozen jobs. Combine that with a reluctance to form unions and you basically give employers all the power.


Amazon waged a very strong campaign against unionization, arguing that they already pay $15, and that unionization could mean fewer hours, less flexibility, etc etc. Whether their campaign was truthful is definitely up for debate, but I'll concede their messaging was better than that of the union advocates. We have to work harder.
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Postby Ifreann » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:31 pm

Hey, it's that thing that basically everyone has been proposing for years and years.
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Postby The Two Jerseys » Thu Apr 22, 2021 3:28 pm

If government policy is to put the miners out of a job, then it's only fair that the government gets them a new job with the same pay and benefits.
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Postby Cannot think of a name » Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:50 pm

Ifreann wrote:Hey, it's that thing that basically everyone has been proposing for years and years.

You mean that thing that was supposed to be cold hard evidence that whoever was saying it was ignoring coal workers? Curious.
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Postby New haven america » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:01 pm

We already tried that in the US.

The coal miners said "Fuck off." IIRC.
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Postby The Lone Alliance » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:22 pm

New haven america wrote:We already tried that in the US.

The coal miners said "Fuck off." IIRC.

No we didn't try that in the US, we didn't actually try to retrain Coal Miners to give them jobs they could actually do, we tried the "Learn to Code" meme and then acted surprised that people who were good at Blue Collar manual laborer jobs didn't magically want to have White Collar Tech Jobs.
And then the money that was supposed to go towards training these miners disappeared down mysterious money pits. :roll:

In recent years however several solar power companies have attempted to open up factories in "Coal Country" but time will tell if it'll work or not.
That's the type of jobs Coal Miners can do, mining to manufacturing is doable.
Last edited by The Lone Alliance on Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby New haven america » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:28 pm

The Lone Alliance wrote:
New haven america wrote:We already tried that in the US.

The coal miners said "Fuck off." IIRC.

No we didn't try that in the US, we didn't actually try to retrain Coal Miners to give them jobs they could actually do, we tried the "Learn to Code" meme and then acted surprised that people who were good at Blue Collar manual laborer jobs didn't magically want to have White Collar Tech Jobs.

In recent years however several solar power companies have attempted to open up factories in "Coal Country" but time will tell if it'll work or not.
That's the type of jobs Coal Miners can do, mining to manufacturing is doable.

If you want to make an actual argument, I suggest researching the topic you're trying to discuss.

Most forms of renewable energy require some knowledge in math, physics, coding, etc... How do you think people who work with wind turbines and solar panels actually monitor the energy being produced? Hell, how do you think the machines in factories producing the materials that are made in those factories work?
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Postby The Lone Alliance » Thu Apr 22, 2021 7:10 pm

New haven america wrote:
If you want to make an actual argument, I suggest researching the topic you're trying to discuss.

Most forms of renewable energy require some knowledge in math, physics, coding, etc... How do you think people who work with wind turbines and solar panels actually monitor the energy being produced? Hell, how do you think the machines in factories producing the materials that are made in those factories work?
Of course I do and that's exactly why I said it was impossible to expect that you could simply retrain all the coal miners into working in such industries. The idea that you can simply 'Retrain everyone" doesn't actually pan out outside of theory, studies have shown it.

It's just that no one has the honesty to come right out and tell them, "In the name of global capitalism your job is no longer necessary and you are a functionally obsolete human being, for the good of capitalism please die quickly."
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Postby Andsed » Thu Apr 22, 2021 7:15 pm

Coal and other fossil fuels need to be phased out soon if we’re going to have any chance of preventing a climate collapse. But coal workers need to be supported due to the job loss that is going to sadly have to occur here. Helping then find other jobs in renewable industries is a good start to that.
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Postby UniversalCommons » Thu Apr 22, 2021 7:30 pm

How about help the coal workers find jobs in local industries and not worrying whether or not it is renewable energy. People don't need to be pigeonholed. They need to go back to work. People who want to work in renewables should work in renewables.

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Postby Ifreann » Fri Apr 23, 2021 7:36 am

Nousa wrote:
Ifreann wrote:Hey, it's that thing that basically everyone has been proposing for years and years.


By all means, cite the detailed plans put forward by a credible politician of influence.

I don't know about detailed plans by credible politicians of influence, but in the last 15 years on this forum I've seen this basic idea, give redundant coal workers jobs in emerging green industries, from any number of inconsequential internet randos. It's kind of an obvious solution, and it's not surprising that as the death of coal becomes ever more imminent, the union is trying to make it actually happen.
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