The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the largest coal mining union in the US, issued a statement yesterday that said they were “disappointed” in Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) announcement on Sunday that he would not vote in favor of the Build Back Better (BBB) legislation. UMWA International president Cecil E. Roberts urged Manchin to “pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.”
Yesterday, Electrek reported that Manchin announced on Fox News Sunday that he won’t vote for the Build Back Better Framework, which contains crucial climate change provisions. In addition to expressing concern over inflation and the deficit – both unfounded concerns – he also said that if he can’t “go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it.”
So it just got complicated for Manchin – the top recipient overall of oil and gas, mining, and coal money, not just in the Senate, but in all of Congress – when his good friend, UMWA president Roberts, publicly disagreed with Manchin’s lack of support for BBB in a formal statement.
Looks like Manchin didn’t explain “it” well enough to the UMWA.
Just ponder that for a minute: The coal miners’ union wants Manchin – the chair of the US Energy and Natural Resources Committee – to vote for a bill that earmarked $555 billion for clean energy and transportation incentives over a decade. As in, ditch the coal.
As Electrek wrote in April:
Even Roberts called for federal support for wind turbines and solar panels to be manufactured in Appalachia, and spells out a plan in the union’s new report (although it still leans heavily on coal).
Why the coal miners’ union supports the bill
There are items in that bill that benefit the members of the UMWA, and they want those things.
Roberts’ statement highlights three items in the Build Back Better legislature that would benefit its members:
The bill includes language that would extend the current fee paid by coal companies to fund benefits received by victims of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung. But now that fee will be cut in half, further shifting the burden of paying these benefits away from the coal companies and on to taxpayers.
The bill includes language that will provide tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to build facilities in the coalfields that would employ thousands of coal miners who have lost their jobs. We support that and are ready to help supply those plants with a trained, professional workforce. But now the potential for those jobs is significantly threatened.
The bill includes language that would, for the first time, financially penalize outlaw employers that deny workers their rights to form a union on the job. This language is critical to any long-term ability to restore the right to organize in America in the face of ramped-up union-busting by employers. But now there is no path forward for millions of workers to exercise their rights at work.
Roberts knows that coal is on its way out. He wants to take care of his union members, and he is prepared, for the most part, to pragmatically accept the shift to renewables. He also wants to take care of coal miners who suffer from Black Lung.
How ironic that his senator, a Democrat, can’t see the writing on the wall in the way that the coal workers can.
West Virginia AFL-CIO president Josh Sword also stated yesterday:
The West Virginia AFL-CIO knows, and Senator Manchin should know, how important those provisions are to West Virginians and that’s why he should get back to the table and continue to be part of the discussions.
Manchin also apparently, according to the Huffington Post, “told his colleagues that he essentially doesn’t trust low-income people to spend government money wisely.”
Maybe Joe Manchin should stop trying to explain things to West Virginians, start listening to his constituency a bit harder, and, let’s be honest: Stop worrying about his own hefty coal income.
Photo: “Inside Politics Press Breakfast – April 2013 featuring Sen. Joe Manchin III” by Third Way is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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