Cecil Roberts (labor unionist)

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Cecil Roberts
Cecil Roberts 2009.jpg
Roberts in 2009
Born (1946-10-31) October 31, 1946 (age 76)
Alma materWest Virginia University Institute of Technology
OccupationMiner; Labor leader
Known forPresident, United Mine Workers of America

Cecil Roberts (born October 31, 1946) is a miner and president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).[1] He also sits on the AFL–CIO's executive council. Roberts is the great-grandson of Ma Blizzard.[2]

Early life[edit]

Roberts was born on Halloween in 1946. He grew up along Cabin Creek in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Roberts enlisted in the United States Army and served with the 167th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division at Chu Lai during the Vietnam War in 1967–68.[3] After leaving the Army, Roberts went to work as a miner in 1971. He became active in Miners for Democracy, the reform movement in the United Mine Workers which sprung up around miner Arnold Miller. In 1977, he was elected vice president of District 17.

In 1982, Roberts was elected vice president of UMWA. His running mate was Richard Trumka, who became the union's president.

Roberts graduated from the West Virginia Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in 1987 and received an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from West Virginia University of Technology in 1997.

In 1989, Roberts was the on-site leader and strategist and chief negotiator in UMWA's 10-month strike against Pittston Coal. For his role in that successful strike, Roberts received the Rainbow Coalition's Martin Luther King award as well as awards from Citizen Action and the Midwest Academy.

Presidency of UMWA[edit]

When Trumka resigned the presidency of UMWA on December 22, 1995, after being elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL–CIO, Roberts assumed the presidency in his stead.

In 1996, Roberts won an agreement from coal mine operators to re-open UMWA's national coal agreement. It was the first time the contract had been re-opened in the union's history, and Roberts won substantial wage increases.

In 1997, Roberts was elected president of UMWA in his own right to a new five-year term. For the first time in UMWA history, the entire leadership team slate ran unopposed.

In 1998, Roberts negotiated a new national coal agreement.

In 2000, Roberts won re-election a second time. Although his term was not due to expire, delegates to UMWA's March 2000 convention approved a resolution to move the election up so balloting would not coincide with negotiations for a new bituminous coal contract. Again, Roberts and his slate ran unopposed.

In 2001, Roberts bargained a new, five-year national coal agreement. The new agreement included significant pension increases and "30-and-out" language that allowed miners with 30 years of service to retire with full benefits at any age.

In September 2003, Roberts called an International Special Convention to restructure UMWA. Delegates approved proposals to eliminate all International Vice President positions, and combine the International Executive Board Member, District President and District Secretary-Treasurer positions into one office called International District Vice President. Delegates also approved moving the 2005 presidential election up to 2004.

In 2004, Roberts was re-elected a third time as president of UMWA.

In December 2005, Roberts negotiated a new national coal agreement which contained the highest pay raises since 1974. Health benefits were maintained, and coal companies will increase contributions to the UMWA Pension Fund by more than $500 million.[4]

In 2008, Roberts received the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Award.[5]

In 2017 President Roberts secured the healthcare for 22,600 retirees and their families by fighting to pass the Miners Protection Act.

In 2019 he secured the pensions of retired coal miners by lobbying for the Miners Pension Protection Act.


  1. ^ "United Mine Workers of America". Archived from the original on September 10, 1999. Retrieved January 10, 2007. "Cecil E. Roberts, President." United Mine Workers of America, no date. Accessed January 10, 2007.
  2. ^ Davidson, Shae (September 26, 2012). "Mother Blizzard". The West Virginia Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Johnson, Shauna."West Virginia says 'thanks' to Vietnam War veterans", West Virginia MetroNews, 30 March 2016. Accessed 26 March 2019.
  4. ^ "UMW Approves Contract, Gets Highest Pay Hike Since 1974." Lexington Herald-Leader. December 22, 2005.
  5. ^ http://debsfoundation.org/index.php/landing/eugene-v-debs-award/ Eugene V. Debs Foundation, Ret. March 3, 2017
  • Baratz, Morton S. The Union and the Coal Industry. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1955.
  • Coleman, McAlister. Men and Coal. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1969.
  • Fox, Maier B. United We Stand: The United Mine Workers of America, 1890–1990. Washington, D.C.: United Mine Workers of America, 1990.
  • J. H. M. Laslett, The United Mine Workers of America: A Model of Industrial Solidarity? (1996).
  • Long, Priscilla. Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry. New York: Paragon, 1989.

External links[edit]

Preceded by President, United Mine Workers of America
1995 -
Succeeded by