REP. JENKINS: DON’T FORGET ABOUT OUR COAL MINERS
WASHINGTON – On the House floor today, U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) shared stories from West Virginia miners and families asking Congress to protect their pensions and health care.
Robin Workman of Boone County wrote to Rep. Jenkins about how she and her husband depend on the benefits he earned.
“She said, ‘My husband put in 35 years underground. A promise made to them shouldn’t be broken! West Virginia helped keep the lights on back then as well as today. Please don’t forget about us!’” Rep. Jenkins read on the House floor.
The congressman urged his colleagues to support and help pass the Coal Healthcare and Pensions Protection Act, which would shore up pensions and health benefits for miners and their widows.
Please click here to watch the congressman's speech. The full transcript is below.
“Mr. Speaker, miners and their widows in West Virginia and across the country are asking us to protect their pensions and health care. Families like Robin Workman of Boone County, who wrote to me about how she and her husband depend on these benefits. These are benefits they earned.
“She said, ‘My husband put in 35 years underground. A promise made to them shouldn’t be broken! West Virginia helped keep the lights on back then as well as today. Please don’t forget about us!’
“This promise dates back to 1946, when the Truman administration signed an agreement with coal miners – an agreement that guaranteed their pensions and health care would be there for them when they retired.
“Now, that agreement – no, that promise – is in jeopardy. In just a few weeks, tens of thousands of miners and widows will lose their health insurance. These miners have back problems, they have knee problems, breathing problems, all from their work in the mines. They simply cannot go without insurance.
“Kenny Meade’s father is one of those retired miners. He lives in Chapmanville and reached out to me to share the story of his parents.
“Kenny wrote about his father: ‘He worked 31 years in the mines and often for less than other miners so he could bargain for the rights to health care and pensions,’ he said.
“This is an issue we can fix, but it’s not an issue that arose overnight. The war on coal has decimated coal jobs in West Virginia and across the country. An onslaught of overregulations, federal regulations have made it harder to mine coal and harder to burn coal. Coal-fired power plants have shut down, making electricity more expensive and reducing the market for coal.
“And as demand has decreased and regulations have made it harder to mine coal, mines are closing and companies are filing for bankruptcy. And a company in bankruptcy isn’t going to have the resources to meet its pension obligations.
“All of these – market forces, regulations, the war on coal – have had devastating impacts on our miners and their families.
“It is time for Congress to act to keep the promise and protect the benefits the miners worked their entire lives to earn. The Coal Healthcare and Pensions Protection Act won’t cost taxpayers anything. It uses existing funds paid for by mining companies to provide for retired miners. This is not a tax. Taxpayers won’t be on the hook for these pensions.
“This is about ensuring a promise made is a promise kept.
“Mr. Speaker, as we approach the holiday season, I hope we will remember the retirees and widows worried about what the new year will bring. We must act now to pass a solution to this crisis to keep our word. I yield back.”