Those who follow business news know that when a company is floundering, usually you want to “look for the union label”.

Marshall University student Aaron Kidd ties this trend together with West Virgina’s coal industry challenges.

Last week, 160 West Virginia coal miners learned they would no longer have a job after August.  The company, Alpha Natural Resources, cited poor market conditions as a reason for their closure.  While the rest of the country attempts to recover from the so-called “Great Recession,” West Virginia coal miners find their opportunities shrinking every day.  It is true that President Obama hasn’t been a proponent of the coal industry (he said electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket under his energy policies).  However, a major problem with the Appalachian coal industry is Union leadership doing their best to shut down every coal company they can.

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts is a known criminal; his most recent arrest came a few days ago at a Patriot coal company protest in Kentucky.  He was arrested at a Patriot coal protest in West Virginia just weeks before.  Successful CEOs and leaders know their actions speak to their personal values and beliefs – Roberts seems to value being a felon more than advancing the UMWA.  His agenda is to control the conversation and blame coal companies for the problems he created.  He promised workers posh benefits in exchange for joining unions, and when these companies folded, he blamed the companies for not meeting their obligations.

West Virginia has a rich history that shows how unions can play a positive role in the coal industry, accomplishing everything from reasonable work hours to safety regulations.  No one can deny the impact they had on shaping what we consider to be standard operating procedure today.  Unfortunately, their once positive influence has waned, they serve only to detract from economic growth and serious progress.

This trend isn’t limited solely to the coal industry, or to West Virginia. …

…Unions aren’t just to blame for economic hardship.  Corporations manipulate people and can become corrupt when left unchecked.  But, there are a multitude of rules and regulations in place thanks to workers who knew they were worth something.  For this reason, unions should be wholly satisfied at their progress.  They’ve done what they set out to accomplish, which is make the workplace safer and make sure their workers were treated fairly.  Unfortunately, they now focus solely on trying to earn their workers a higher wage than market value allows, while also intimidating nonunion workers and corporations.  The time has come to seriously examine the usefulness of unions in our economy.