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Beckley Register-Herald: LIUNA Giving Miners, Veterans Opportunities

New jobs should be filled by Mountaineers

There are too many West Virginians out of work.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of December 2016, West Virginia’s unemployment rate is 5.9 percent. That’s more than 2 percent higher than the national unemployment rate (4.7 percent), and higher than our neighbors in Kentucky (4.8 percent) and Pennsylvania (5.6 percent).

While that number is too high, it is still an improvement from the 8.8 percent unemployment rate that the Mountain State saw in November 2010.

In order to keep the unemployment rate declining with coal jobs also declining, West Virginians need to be trained to enter other fields as different opportunities come to the state.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is doing just that, giving coal miners, veterans and others training in different fields, notably pipeline and road work. According to LiUNA’s statistics, it spent 46,102 hours training workers between 2015-16, West Virginia MetroNews reports.

On Tuesday, LiUNA met with Gov. Jim Justice at the state capitol and received strong support.

Justice said this training program could help the state’s economy “take off like a rocket.”

This is a program that deserves our governor’s support, as Justice and officials from LiUNA estimate that it could help promote job opportunities for thousands of workers.

With new job opportunities on the horizon in West Virginia, such as these new roads and pipelines, we need to ensure that these jobs go to the hardworking people of West Virginia, not people who will take their paycheck and spend it over state lines while West Virginians remain out of work.

“Instead of brining out-of-state people in here to take our jobs away from local residents, why not train the people that are right here in the state looking for job opportunities?” LiUNA vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional manager Dennis Martire told West Virginia MetroNews.

“Everybody wants a good job; there is no one out there who doesn’t want a living wage, health care and a pension, and that is what we are providing.”

We applaud the governor for supporting such a program, and we encourage LiUNA to keep doing what it is to help our local residents who are out of work.

As Martire explained, people in the Mountain State want to work; they just need to have the chance to do so.

“People had good jobs, but then the coal industry started to decline. The drug epidemic is rising; poverty is rising because people don’t have a job,” Martire said. “You have this energy boom coming to the state; this is our opportunity.”

With training from LiUNA and support from the state government, hopefully West Virginia can seize that opportunity and get the unemployment rate down.