Coal Miners Vow a Fight for Promised Benefits in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amid the historic trappings of the nation’s capital, coal miners both active and retired, along with their families showed up in force in Washington DC Thursday with a message and a mission.   The message to members of Congress was the mine workers were promised healthcare and pensions in the 1940s and the mission was to see to it the promise is kept.

“We’re not here just to pass legislation, we’re here to save people’s lives,” railed UMWA President Cecil Roberts in his well known fire and brimstone tone. “We’ll go wherever we have to go to defend our retirees’ pensions and healthcare that they have earned.”

The crowd heard from a number of allies on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle.  Roberts reminded the crowd it was not a partisan fight.

“Today its not about whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or whether you’re a conservative or a liberal,” he said. “Today is about doing what is right.”

“We need eight more Republican Senators to join this cause and we take it over the top,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). “These are friends of ours and we need them to work and see the light and I think they will.  They’re not going to let us down.”

Manchin and fellow U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have led the fight in the Senate to pass the legislation to protect the promised benefits.  It’s a promise which dates back to 1946 approved by Congress and signed by President Harry S. Truman.

“Today we’re all the same,” Capito told the crowd. “We believe in the hard work of America. We believe in the patriotism of America. We believe in the bountifulness of our Creator and we believe when you make a promise, you don’t forsake the miners, their widows, or their families.  A promise made is a promise kept.”

Several speakers called out U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who controls the agenda in the Senate, including Capito. Indications are McConnell is largely responsible for the long delay in passing the measure.

“Joe Manchin and I stood strong in July with Mitch McConnell and Orin Hatch and said, ‘We want a vote on our bill,’ and w’ere going to get it.” Capito told the crowd.

Capito and Manchin indicated to the crowd they believed the vote in the Senate Finance Committee would come next week to advance the bill to the Senate floor.  Capito added she believed there were more than enough votes ready to be committed.

A companion bill is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives without much difficulty according to Congressman David McKinley. (R-WV1).

“We’ve got the support to get it passed, but what we have to do is find the will to get it passed in the Senate,” McKinley told the crowd. “We’re going to be fine in the House, but we’ve got to get past the opposition in the Senate.”

Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-WV3) agreed.

“This bill is seven pages,” said Jenkins. “To protect your pension, to insure you’re healthcare, seven pages is all it takes.”

Roberts and 99 other members of the union on hand for the rally left the stage carrying a symbolic coffin and blocked the street in front of the U.S. Capitol building in an act of civil disobedience. They were arrested by Capitol Police after three warnings to disperse.

By:  Chris Lawrence
Source: Metro News