On the very best day in Washington D.C., it’s easy for interests of the everyday working person to get lost in the shuffle. Lately, the bickering in Congress has become so deafening, it’s a miracle if even the most powerful political players are heard.
That is what makes the victory last week on behalf of more than 22,000 retired miners who stood to lose critical health care benefits so remarkable.
Thanks to the determination of the members of the United Mine Workers of America, led by UMWA President Cecil Roberts, those retiree benefits became a national priority.
As West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told hundreds of miners who traveled to D.C. during one of the many demonstrations calling on Congress to act, “Without you here … this doesn’t get done.”
Tens of thousands of UMWA members, both retired and active, marched, rallied, wrote letters and made phone calls. They reminded lawmakers that this country’s coal miners risked their health and lives to take care of their families and provide the energy that’s helped our nation prosper. These miners have earned the benefits, which they were promised by President Truman 70 years ago, only to see them threatened by company bankruptcies and closures.
Senator Manchin stood strong with UMWA leaders, members and surviving spouses while working other members of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation during heated budget negotiations to demand a permanent fix.
This is a tremendous win for this country’s coal miners and their families. Thank you to President Roberts, the leadership of the UMWA and the hundreds of miners who came forward to ensure that the rights of these hard-working men and women were not forgotten.
Editor's Note: Sword is president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO.