FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 23, 2020
[TRIANGLE, VA.] The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) offered strong support for the “Marshall Plan for Coal Country,” to be introduced today in the United States Senate by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
“This is the first legislation we have seen that takes aim at the tremendous economic problems that already exist in the coalfields of America,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “Coal-producing areas of our nation have taken a pounding, and it is not getting any better. Senator Duckworth’s bill is comprehensive and includes several programs and concepts that would have strong, positive impacts on economically depressed communities in the coalfields, as well as dislocated workers and their families.”
The bill would:
- Provide health care coverage through Medicare for coal workers who have lost their jobs;
- Improve bankruptcy laws so that coal companies would have to pay obligations to pensions and retiree health care before they paid executive bonuses;
- Establishes programs to assist dislocated coal workers with setting up their own businesses;
- Provide federal government procurement preferences for goods manufactured in coal country;
- Encourage first-time homebuyers to purchase homes in hard-hit coal communities while stabilizing property values for existing homeowners;
- Provides significant assistance to apply carbon capture and storage technology to existing coal-fired power plants, and to build out the infrastructure needed to accomplish this;
- Provide free higher education tuition to coal workers and their families to earn an Associates, Technical or Bachelor’s degree.
“These are exactly the kind of specifics we have long called for in policy initiatives to help workers, families and communities that have already been devastated,” Roberts said. “They worked long and hard to provide America with the energy it needed to become the strongest nation on Earth. They did – and many thousands are still doing – their part for all of us. We cannot continue to just kick them to the curb; America has a responsibility to them.
“This is not a climate bill,” Roberts said. “It is not a bill people should feel the need to take sides about. This is a bill that would provide critical help to the communities and people who need it right now. And it will lay the groundwork for any further economic shocks that hit the coalfields as natural gas prices continue to stay low and overall electricity demand remains depressed.
“I call on other Senators, of both parties, to support this legislation,” Roberts said. “And I strongly urge that it be part of any other economic development legislation or policy initiatives that may be under consideration in Congress, the administration or presidential campaigns.”