OP-ED: Kentucky is UMWA Country

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

June 7, 2023

Kentucky is UMWA Country

By: Cecil E. Roberts, International President, United Mine Workers of America

I read in recent news reports that there are some in Kentucky who are shocked – shocked! – that the United Mine Workers of America would support the re-election of Gov. Andy Beshear. Let me be clear: When it comes to supporting candidates for election, the UMWA supports those who support us. Period. It does not matter what office they hold or what party they belong to.

Ask Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, or former Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, also a Republican. Ask Republican Representatives Hal Rogers and Jamie Comer of Kentucky. They seek and receive our endorsement come election time because they earn it during their terms of office. When someone consistently steps up for us, then we step up for them. That’s exactly what Andy Beshear has done.

By strongly supporting our fight to preserve health care and pension benefits for retired miners and spouses, Gov. Beshear has already demonstrated that he is a friend to the more than 10,000 retired miners in the state. Almost all of those retirees have children and grandchildren of voting age, and they know just how important the UMWA has been and continues to be to their parents and grandparents.

More than $120 million flowed into Kentucky in 2022 alone to pay for health care and pensions for those UMWA retirees. No other non-governmental organization in the state even comes close to providing that level of economic impact in coalfield communities. None.

In places like Pike County ($14.5 million), Muhlenberg County ($16.6 million), Hopkins County ($13.2 million), and Union County ($11.9 million), these payments are what keep doctor’s offices, clinics, and pharmacies open for everyone – not just retired miners. That money keeps grocery stores, family restaurants, and gas stations open and running. Without the UMWA and the benefits the union has fought for over generations, these and other coal counties would be deep in poverty.

From recent comments I’ve seen, some Kentucky politicians have no idea about the role the UMWA plays in their state’s economy. They would do well to learn something about it before they go shooting their mouths off about the relevance of the UMWA to Kentucky and its electorate.

Gov. Beshear has been a supporter of active and retired Kentucky coal miners and their families from Day One of his administration. It is simply false to say that because some Washington politicians are not friendly to the coal industry, then all politicians of that party everywhere are therefore not our friends. That’s bull.

Andy Beshear has and will continue to support the mining and use of coal to generate electricity. Kentucky’s 3,000 rank-and-file coal miners can count on that. After all, it wasn’t just the UMWA who endorsed him the other day, several coal operators did as well. Chew on that for a while.

We are proud of our support of Gov. Beshear, and we will shout it from every mountain, hill, and holler in the state. We endorsed him because we know that he has not just been our friend, he has been a friend to the state’s more than 2 million workers who do not work in the coal industry. By the way, we represent some of them, too.

He has proven himself to us and our families; he has earned our endorsement; and we will work day and night to return him to Frankfort to continue fighting for us.