HARLAN, Ky. As coal jobs continue to decline in the region, many are left wondering what’s next.
But one Harlan County group wants to show miners that they support them.
The Harlan County Coal Miners Underground Motorcycle Club held their sixth annual “Miners Memorial Ride”.
The event helps miners that have been laid off, thanking them for their dedication to the region.
“Well if they can’t meet their bills,” said club President, Virgil Saylor. “They’re used to making a good salary in the coal mines and I mean most coal mines do pay pretty good. Then when you get cut out of that unemployment ain’t as much and it only lasts so long, you know. And like I say, jobs ain’t booming around here.”
At one point, Saylor worked in the coal mines himself. He says many of his former co-workers struggled to find other careers.
“You’ve got guys that’s been underground ever since they was 18 years old and probably worked in there 25 to 30 years and that’s all they know is coal-mining,” said Saylor. “It would be different if they had job programs here to re-train them for other jobs.”
According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, around 23,000 Appalachian coal jobs were lost between 2011 and 2015.
That’s why organizers believe this event is important.
“People are out of work and it kind of puts a hurt on our area,” said Anthony Reagan, the Sargeant at Arms for the club. “So you know, we just try to get out and support who we can. You know, these are our families and our friends.”
Organizers hope the community will continue to participate and support the cause next year.
“Everything we get for this ride…goes to the coal miners,” said Saylor. “Anybody that needs help, anybody that contacts us saying they need help…we help them.”
The ride was approximately 70 miles but club members say they would go even further if it meant they could help more people.
Event organizers say they are already planning to hold the 7th annual “Miners Memorial Ride”. They expect that ride to take place during the third or fourth weekend of August 2017.