Editorial: State's representatives in Washington deliver with great news for miners and their families

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: West Virginia coal miners have long supplied the labor to move this nation forward.

Dating back to the days of pickaxe and shovel, miners have toiled long and hard, providing the fuel that powered industry and its evolution over the years.

Even today, despite attempts to lessen its role in power generation, coal remains a valuable source and will for the foreseeable future.

Which brings us to the need to deliver on promises made to these miners, who braved the dark of deep earth to bring up this sought-after commodity.

Health care and pensions for themselves and their families are what miners won in concessions dating back to 1946 when President Harry Truman signed the Krug-Lewis agreement.

And then, when coal came under attack because of environmental concerns and when market conditions led some companies to declare bankruptcy or cease to do business, miners’ benefits were threatened.

Only through government intervention have they been protected, but too often they remained a political football tossed about every time there were budget concerns.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as well as Republican Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins, miners’ health care benefits are protected.

“I am very appreciative that we have gotten this completed,” Manchin told Staff Writer Kailee Gallahan. “It has been a long time over several years that we have worked to get a permanent fix for our miners. I am pleased and thankful that we have come to a negotiation.”

Manchin and others worked to have the benefits paid for through customs user fees, which are paid on goods brought into the country.

“These health benefits are for the people that have been left high and dry because of the mines shutting down, companies going bankrupt and dumping their responsibilities,” Manchin said. “This is a permanent fix. It’s not just another ‘kick the can down the road’ temporary fix.”

And we applaud Manchin, Capito and McKinley’s efforts, especially, for bringing this solution to fruition. As the senior members of the state’s congressional delegation, they have been very instrumental in this positive development.

But it is important that residents realize that the fight for full pension coverage is not over. State representatives say they will continue to battle for a permanent solution for pensions, as well, and hope to have a solution soon.

Residents should continue to voice their concern on these matters and join with West Virginia miners in urging federal leaders to make good on the promise.

The permanent fix for health care benefits is great news. But, much as miners toiled to move this country forward, we can’t rest until the full promise involving pensions is also guaranteed.

Source: The Exponent Telegram