Labor leader Cecil Edward Roberts Jr. was born October 31, 1946, in Cabin Creek, Kanawha County. A sixth-generation coal miner and a fiery orator, Roberts has served as president of the United Mine Workers of America since 1995. He succeeded Richard L. Trumka, who resigned as UMW president to become secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
Roberts’s great-uncle, Bill Blizzard, was a legendary union organizer during the Mine Wars of the early 20th century. Beginning in 1971, after military service in Vietnam, Roberts worked for six years at various underground mining jobs at Carbon Fuel’s No. 31 mine in Winifrede. In the 1970s, he served on the mine, safety, and political action committees for Local Union 2236. He was also active in Miners for Democracy, the group of union members who ousted the union’s corrupt leaders in 1972.
In 1977, Roberts was elected vice-president of UMWA District 17, which covered Boone, Logan, Mingo, Lincoln, Wayne, Kanawha, Clay, and parts of Raleigh and Wyoming counties. Five years later, running on a slate with Richard Trumka, he was elected UMWA vice-president. In 1989, Roberts played a key role in the union’s successful 10-month strike against the Pittston Company. He led miners during daily demonstrations and negotiated to restore health benefits to retired miners. For his efforts, Roberts received the Martin Luther King award from the Rainbow Coalition.
Roberts graduated from West Virginia Institute of Technology in 1987.
Serving initially as Trumka’s successor, Roberts was first elected UMW president in 1997. He has served continuously since that time.
Last Revised on October 22, 2010
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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Cecil Roberts." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 October 2010. Web. 23 October 2014.