UMW endorses Manchin, McKinley, Ojeda campaigns

Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail

The United Mine Workers of America issued a batch of campaign endorsements Friday, backing candidates on both sides of the aisle for federal office.

Re-election campaigns for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., will have the UMW’s support, as will state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, in his run for the open congressional seat in the 3rd District. The union’s pick in the 2nd District remains up for grabs.

Speaking at Manchin’s campaign headquarters in Charleston, Cecil Roberts, president of the UMW, praised Manchin for his assistance in passing legislation that secures health care benefits for 22,600 union members who lost them as the result of bankruptcy reorganizations of major coal companies.

That legislation, however, did not include protection for miners’ pension benefits, as had been written in earlier iterations of the legislation. Roberts said Manchin will continue to fight those pensions in the Senate.

Before a UMW gear-clad audience, Manchin said he would also like to change bankruptcy laws to prioritize employees of companies that declare bankruptcy. He also criticized recent legislative attempts to roll back mine safety laws.

“As I stand before you, there are people everyday trying to relax and remove our safety laws, everyday we’re fighting this,” he said. “They’re trying to remove the safety laws for sake of production. Now that is pure BS … When people put production, when they put profit in front of a human life, and the person responsible for them and their family, god help us all if we get ourselves into that position there.”

Later in the day, Roberts also spoke at the UMW regional office in Charleston to announce the union’s backing of Ojeda for the seat vacated by Rep. Evan Jenkins.

“I believe that Richard will be a yes vote for us on any issue that’s of importance to working people in the state of West Virginia, particularly working coal miners, or laid off coal miners, or retired coal miners,” Roberts said of Ojeda.

Flanked by union members, Roberts, and family (most of whom are also UMW members), Ojeda said he’s ready to fight to represent working families.

“Wait, watch and see,” Ojeda said. “You haven’t seen anybody who will pick a bigger fight than I will. Make no mistake about it, I would rather fight than eat.”

In a news release, the union also announced its backing of McKinley, who chairs the congressional Coal Caucus.

“David McKinley is a good friend of UMW members and their families and a strong supporter of coal miners and the work they do,” Roberts said. “Representative McKinley led the successful fight in in the House of Representatives to preserve our retirees’ health care and is once again the strong voice we need in our effort to protect their pensions. He has been a key ally in our efforts to preserve and expand our members’ jobs and keep them safe at work.”

Phil Smith, director of communications and governmental affairs for the UMW, said the union has not yet backed a candidate in the 2nd District House race. He said the endorsement will depend on who wins the Democratic primary, and the union has not ruled out an endorsement of incumbent Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.

Mooney introduced a bill last year that would roll back financial disclosure requirements from publicly traded companies to investors about mining company safety violations or worker deaths that were imposed after 29 miners died at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010. The UMW opposed the bill.

Smith said despite issues with the bill, Mooney has been supportive of legislation the UMW wanted to see passed. With two “friends” in the Democratic primary — Aaron Scheinberg and Tally Sergent — he said the union will just wait and see who to endorse.

Written by: Jake Zuckerman