Fighting for coal miners’ benefits

Source: Times West Virginian

The coal miners of West Virginia and Virginia dedicated their lives to mining the coal that powered our nation to greatness. Over 70 years ago, President Harry Truman recognized the important role our brave miners were playing in our economy and the ongoing war effort. He made a promise that the government would guarantee coal miners’ healthcare and pension benefits in return for their service.

Last year, after months of hard work and negotiations, we finally secured the healthcare benefits that our coal miners’ have earned. That would not have been possible without the miners themselves traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend countless hours of meetings and hearings to advocate for the benefits they were promised. This was an important win for coal country, but our work is not done yet. The pensions our miners have worked for over the years are still on the chopping block, and we are not going to stop until Washington makes good on President Truman’s promise to coal miners and their families.

Together, we introduced the bipartisan American Miners Pension Act to shore up the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan. In the years we’ve spent fighting to save these hard-earned benefits, we’ve heard from thousands of miners and their families about the devastating impact the loss of these pensions would have on their families and their communities.

We couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, with each day that passes, miners face more uncertainty and often some tough choices as a result.

We’ve heard from retired miners, their wives and children who have shared their fear of being forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying their medical bills. These men and women aren’t asking for a handout. They just want the federal government to keep its word.

We will not sit idly by while Congress refuses to act and miners grow closer to making these cruel choices.

What we’re going to do is keep fighting until we pass the American Miners Pension Act, standing alongside miners, their families, their unions, and their communities who are all in this together.

What we’re not going to do is let political partisanship get in the way of doing what’s right for coal country. Just this month, we worked with Sen. Capito and several other Republican Senators who represent coal mining states to pass legislation improving early detection of black lung disease and complicated black lung. With President Trump’s signature earlier this month, that legislation is now law.

And we’re going to keep fighting for coal miners’ pensions with the same bipartisanship that was crucial to saving their healthcare benefits. The American Miners Pension Act is sponsored by coal-state senators of both parties. When it comes keeping the promise to America’s coal miners, we all play for the same team.

But the truth is, this fight is about more than pensions. It is about making sure our government keeps its promise. And it is about making sure that people who work hard can still get a fair deal in this country.

That is something worth believing in and worth fighting for.

West Virginia and Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working people in America. They have dedicated their lives to powering this country and keeping it the strongest in the world. We will continue fighting for a solution that is worthy of their sacrifice.

Joe Manchin is the senior U.S. Senator from West Virginia. Mark Warner is the senior U.S. Senator from Virginia.

Written by: Senators Joe Manchin and Mark Warner