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Thousands converged on Capitol Hill to support passage of the Miners Protection Act.

Thousands converged on Capitol Hill to support passage of the Miners Protection Act.

A hard-written sign shows what the Mine Worker and others want Congress to enact.

A hard-written sign shows what the Mine Worker and others want Congress to enact.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts rallies the participants during the Sept. 8 rally on Capitol Hill.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts rallies the participants during the Sept. 8 rally on Capitol Hill.

The first step in keeping a 70-year promise made to Mine Workers retirees and their families was cleared September 21 when the Senate Finance Committee approved the Miners Protection Act (S 1714).

The measure would use excess dollars that coal companies must send to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to help with pension costs. It would secure retiree health care benefits for those retirees whose companies declared bankruptcy between 2012 and 2015, Additionally, the legislation would preserve the long-term vitality of the union’s 1974 pension fund.

“I am very pleased that the Senate Finance Committee voted today to approve the Miners Protection Act. It has been a long fight to gain a congressional committee’s approval of this critical legislation,’ stated UMWA President Cecil Roberts immediately after the committee met.

The bill had strong bipartisan support, which was on display two weeks earlier when the Mine Workers (an MTD affiliate) rallied at the foot of the Capitol. Many MTD affiliates (among them American Federation of Government Employees; Bakery Workers, Boilermakers, Communications Workers, Electrical Workers, Fire Fighters, Iron Workers and Seafarers) joined the thousands of active Mine Workers, retirees and families who came from as far away as Alabama and Illinois to urge Congress to “Keep the Promise” of 1946 signed by President Truman after the federal government negotiated an agreement between the union and the coal companies guaranteeing lifetime health and pension benefits to avert a strike.

Speaking during the September 8 rally were Democratic and Republican legislators from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia declaring their support for the measure and for the Mine Workers.

S 1714 now goes before the full Senate. A similar bill (HR 2403) is working its way through the House of Representatives.

The Mine Workers have noted legislation needs to be enacted by year’s end or thousands of retirees will face the elimination of their pensions and/or benefits.

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