WASHINGTON (WJHL) — A top mining union official from Bristol will accompany U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine at the president’s State of the Union address next Tuesday.
The senator invited James Gibbs, an at-large international vice president of the United Mine Workers of America who lives in Bristol, Virginia.
Gibbs is a third-generation coal miner from Dickenson County who has worked as an electrician underground and as a lineman at surface mines.
He told News Channel 11, that he’s proud to represent the UMWA in the nation’s capital.
“I’m a proud union man,” said Gibbs, who currently serves as the head organizer for the union.
He said he’s spent his career following the advice of his union, coal mining father and grandfather.
“They had always told me a union to help take care of you and take care of your family. But you have to, you have to help take care of it,” Gibbs said.
He began working with the UMWA in the 1980s when a group of fellow miners asked him to help initiate new contract negotiations after years without a raise.
Among Gibb’s proudest accomplishments is securing continued funding for a federally-funded black lung benefits program and garnering support for the Bi-partisan American Miners Act of 2019.
The law extends promised healthcare and pension benefits to retired miners, even if their employer files for bankruptcy.
“We still have over 12,000 pensioners,” Gibbs said.
“My dad had earned that by working in these mines and breaking his back.”
He says he’s thankful for the opportunity to sit on the house floor and thank lawmakers who supported the measure.
President Joe Biden is set to deliver the State of the Union at 9 p.m. Tuesday.