Coal miners cast ballots on contract ratification

About 160,000 striking soft coal miners voted at union halls Tuesday on contract ratification, which has become a leadership test for United Mine Workers president Sam Church Jr. Union officials forecast a lengthy strike, possibly surpassing the record 111-day walkout in 1978-79, if the agreement with the bituminous coal industry were rejected.

Union officials looked to two key West Virginia districts with nearly one-third of the membership as a barometer of the outcome: the 26,000-miner District 17 and 24,000-miner District 29.

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