In early February, ACLC won former underground coal miner Edythe Pridemore’s claim for federal black lung benefits. As a result of this award, she will receive lifetime monthly benefit payments, healthcare coverage to treat her breathing problems, and substantial back pay.
Edythe worked in Kentucky coal mines in Knott and Letcher Counties from 1977 until 1985. As a general underground laborer, she was responsible for many very strenuous tasks that are necessary in the mining process. She often would shovel coal for hours that spilled from the beltline. She worked in very dusty conditions and sometimes in areas of a mine that were only 36 inches high. Edythe felt that coal mining was an honorable job, and she was proud to be surrounded by hard-working people.
Edythe left mining due to the birth of a child. She later used her Master’s degree in Secondary Education to teach English at Knott County Central High School for over two decades. Around ten years ago, Edythe began noticing worsening breathing problems. Her sister suggested that she go in for a black lung exam.
Edythe initially filed her claim on her own but was met with various procedural roadblocks. In 2019, ACLC took on Edythe’s case and was successful in proving that she was totally disabled due to black lung disease. This is ACLC’s first victory in a black lung case on behalf of a woman coal miner.
We hope Edythe’s story will be a reminder that thousands of women have risked their lives working underground. Despite the coal industry’s hiring practices that led to a “last to be hired, first to be let go” system for women, many still developed black lung disease from their years of coal mine dust exposure.