In the Eastside Liquors bar in Gillette, the old saying holds true: Politics and religion should be left at the door. It’s been that way for the 18 years Kori Koester has managed her father’s bar.
From early in the morning until late at night, coal miners and industry guys from nearby mines find their way to Eastside in their heavy work boots for a beer, a meal or a game of pool. In the past, conversation rarely centered on politics.
But this presidential election is different for the town where coal layoffs stripped hundreds of workers of their jobs. There is no taboo about talking politics in the Eastside bar anymore. “Right now it’s kind of unanimous,” Koester said. “Everywhere you go, everybody wants Trump.”
On Tuesday, Wyoming coal miners will join their fellow Americans to vote for the next president of the United States. Most have their minds made up. They will vote for real estate mogul and Republican candidate Donald Trump. They will not support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
For them, the choice is simple. It isn’t about politics or parties. It’s business, and it’s personal. It comes down to coal.
Coal miners in Wyoming have watched their industry being pummeled for over a year. They’ve lost jobs and businesses. They’ve said goodbye to friends and family who walked away from a shrinking profession dependent on the price of a little black rock. And though experts say many of the pressures on coal are related to market competition, federal environmental regulations frighten miners who believe their jobs won’t exist in years to come.
Coal miners started paying attention when President Barack Obama started pushing initiatives like the Clean Power Plan, said Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King, whose husband is a coal miner.
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