You’ve clearly never spent any time in Coal Country.
Yes, they want to work. They’re the epitome of the industrial ideals of 19th and early 20th century America — hardworking blue collar individuals who keep on keepin’ on despite hardships life throws at them, plugging away in (in this case) the mines, risking their current and future lives so that the rest of the country can have America’s natural resources.
However, they want to work in the mines. Because that’s what their daddy and his daddy did, and that’s what they did, until the industry started shutting down. It’s all they know, and until relatively recently, it worked quite well for them.
But this is the 21st century, now.
It’s not that they “have no place in American economy.” The healthcare and other industries would love to have them. There are multitudes of opportunities to be had…if you’re willing to learn the skills necessary. And that’s the problem — they’re not.
Those that are young enough to not have worked in the mines and realize that the coal mines are never coming back (and even if they did, they’d be run by machines) have and are moving out of those areas and into the cities. The ones that are old enough to have held those mining jobs, however, can’t bring themselves to do things like work in healthcare (“women’s jobs”) or take the pay cuts and learning curves necessary for a career change (and it makes sense, if you know them, even if it’s counterproductive; American country folk, particularly Appalachians, are a proud, independent bunch, and are reluctant to bend to damn near any external force or entity).
My family hails from Coal Country. My great uncle was a coal miner. He was lamenting to me just a few weeks ago about how he wished he could go back to the coal mines, because it was good, honest work and he prospered there. His son, who is at the start of his career and adult life, moved to the city, because there are little more than menial labor, minimum wage jobs waiting for him in his hometown area.