The overall downturn in the coal industry is one big reason why West Virginia’s economy has struggled. But now Governor Jim Justice (D-WV) is backing a jobs retraining initiative, sponsored by the Laborers International Union of North America.
“They’re thinking that there’s massive amounts of job opportunities in the gas industry. There is going to be an incredible demand for labor in the road construction industry,” Gov. Justice said.
And with gas production up; and thousands of possible highway jobs tied to a statewide road referendum, there’s some reason to be optimistic. Omar Lewis of Beckley was laid off from the mines, but was retrained as a highway worker.
“I was a former coal miner. Got into the labor business. It’s a good job and a very good opportunity,” Lewis said.
He is not alone, Chris Thatcher of Moundsville, was retrained to work in natural gas.
“I am a former Unites States Navy veteran, and a former coal miner of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Work was struggling,” Thatcher said.
The program is not receiving any state funding yet, and is the initiative of organized labor. Dennis Martire with the Laborers International Union weighed in.
“Why should workers come in from the states of Texas, Michigan and Oklahoma, to take the jobs that are right here in the state of West Virginia?” Martire said.
The bottom line in any training initiative, is will be there be jobs at the end of the process. The Governor and others said a lot of that may depend upon the roads bond initiative voters will cast ballots on, on October 7.