Coal mining remains hot topic on the campaign trail
On Dec. 31, democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden made it clear that coal will continue to be a hot topic in the 2020 presidential election season. Speaking at a rally in New Hampshire Biden suggested coal miners who have lost their jobs, or those who fear they might lose their jobs should learn to program computers.
According to Dave Weigel of the Washington Post, Biden said, “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well... Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53,300 people were employed in coal mines in September 2019, far below the 79,400 people employed in the sector a decade ago.
Biden is not the first to suggest coal miners look to other industries as demand for coal continues to be low. According The Hill, retraining programs have received bipartisan support. The U.S. Department of Labor announced a fund of nearly $5 million for working training programs in Appalachia in 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently announced $2 million in funding from the National Dislocated Workers fund, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced a fund of more than $1 million from the same fund.
Josh Benton, the deputy secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet in Kentucky, told Ohio Valley ReSource that the biggest problem is whether or not workers actually have other jobs based out of where they live.
“The challenge that we face is not necessarily are the training programs effective? It is, are there other industries, for those displaced workers to go to work,” he said.
The success of retraining programs is questionable as many of the new careers often pay far less than the high-paying coal mining jobs.
Fox News reported that Biden – the front-runner in national polling in the Democratic nomination race – emphasized that “the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs ... is real.”
“We shouldn’t build another new highway in America that doesn’t have charging stations on it. We have an opportunity to put 550,000 charging stations so that we own the electrical vehicle market, creating millions of jobs for people installing them, as well making sure that we own electric vehicle market,” Biden explained.