Country roads, take me home
To the place where I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma
Take me home, country roads
Why did this fifth generation coal miner in West Virginia vote for Trump? Story of America went to West Virginia to document Bernie Sander's townhall in McDowell County, the poorest county in the second poorest state in the Union. Along the way, we met this fifth generation coal miner and Republican in Saulsville, West Virginia.
Posted by Story of America on Thursday, March 16, 2017
Coy Daniels is a 42 year-old coal miner from Wyoming County, WV. He is a fifth-generation coal miner and a strong union supporter of the United Mine Workers Of America (UMVA). Coy has been working in the mines for over 18 years. He loves the work he does. “The work I do helps power America”, Coy states with conviction.
He remembers at 10 years old, being on the picket line with his father, defending the mine against scab workers. One day while on a picket, the boss came up to try to break the line. He asked his father if he could throw a rock at the car, and his father said, “go ahead son. We have to protect our jobs.” He threw the rock and broke the window of the bosses car.
His role in the mines were to set the electrical cables that powered the coal extracting machines. These cables as you could imagine are very heavy. He had told hold them to the ceiling and then wait for someone to mount them. He has had multiple surgeries on his shoulders 4 years ago, Coy damaged his shoulder so much that he is not able to go back to work in the mines. With no other jobs available for Coy to work, his wife Melanie picked up a 2nd job working at Jason’s Country Corner, a filling station in the unincorporated town of Saulsville, WV. Melanie’s primary job is working for the Head Start program in West Virginia. They have 3 children to take care of. His workmen’s compensation settlement has run out so he isn’t making any salary. Due to our current government policies on Social Security Benefits, he is not able to collect any Social Security relief. “We’re really struggling right now to make ends meet”, Coy said.
Coy is also a lifelong Republican. “My daddy was a Republican all his life and he taught me to be one too. I never questioned it.” Coy voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election because he promised to bring the coal jobs back.
When asked about other job opportunities, Coy said, “if there was another job that paid like the coal mine work here, I’d do it.” The coal miners in West Virginia starting salary is $60,000 a year. When asked about how he reconciled being a republican while those same politicians try to gut his union & healthcare benefits, he said, “I don’t know.”
What’s happening to Coy is a snapshot of what is occurring across America. People want to work, and the industry that previously flourished is no longer providing the jobs to keep the economy going. In West Virginia, coal production has tapered off since the 1970’s. Trump made a promise during his campaign to the people of West Virginia that, for purely economic reasons, he will never be able to deliver on.
I went to cover the issues that are facing the people of McDowell County, West Virginia and I was changed along the way. I have lived and been a part of organizing campaigns all over the country, and this was different. The people of West Virginia have a complicated relationship with mountain momma. What they take from it literally shortens their lives. Due to our national and worldwide dependency on coal and having no other options for jobs due to lack of infrastructure, people like Coy will be left out on the margins.
Almost all of our relationships begin and most continue as mutual forms of exploitation, be it mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both sides run out of goods.