About 10,000 retired coal miners and their families descended on the U.S. Congress on Thursday to pressure lawmakers to pass stalled legislation that would prevent 22,000 of them from losing their pension and health benefits as soon as early 2017.
A bipartisan group of senators is trying to pass legislation to ensure the retirees' coverage with the United Mine Workers of America’s retirement and healthcare funds, which are dwindling as some coal companies drop benefits in their bankruptcy proceedings.
The future of the coal industry and its workers has been an issue in national politics. With just weeks to go before the presidential and congressional elections in November, time for passage of the bill is limited.
The union said the federal government was obligated to ensure coal workers continue to get the benefits. The UMWA pension currently supports about 120,000 former miners and their families.
“These miners put in decades of back-breaking work in America’s coal mines to energize our nation," UMWA International President Cecil Roberts said.