Largest Coal Miner's Union in U.S. Calls on Manchin to Support Build Back Better Bill to Help WV Miners
This past weekend, conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that, after months of negotiations with the White House, he wouldn't be supporting Build Back Better—President Joe Biden's ambitious $2 trillion economic package aimed at protecting workers, expanding education access, and fighting the climate crisis.
Because Senate Democrats need all 50 of their members to support the bill and bypass a Republican filibuster, Manchin's announcement dealt the toughest blow yet to the legislation's passage, though the White House still expressed hope that Manchin would be open to further negotiations.
Now, America's largest mine workers union—the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)—has joined the chorus of voices urging Manchin to reconsider.
It's an important development because Manchin's home state of West Virginia is coal mining country. A 2019 study found that coal mining industries accounted for 17 percent of the state's total economic output. West Virginia accounts for more than a quarter of all the coal industry jobs in America. The state remains the second-largest coal producer in the nation, behind Wyoming.
Throughout his 2018 reelection campaign, Manchin emphasized the importance of "keeping promises to our miners," but the statement from UMWA's president, Cecil Roberts, highlighted all the ways the Senator's opposition to Build Back Better would hurt them.
The statement read in part:
“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.”
“For those and other reasons, we are disappointed that the bill will not pass. We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.
Roberts also went on to voice support for voting rights legislation, which is currently stalled in no small part due to Manchin's opposition to filibuster reform.
People celebrated the statement on Twitter.
Okay we love to see it. Didn't he make some crack about having to explain the bill to coal miners? Looks like they get it, my dude. https://t.co/WSrdNdjKfN
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) December 21, 2021
This is very significant. Manchin will look even worse if he defies the United Mine Workers.@JoeManchinWV, your state is in DESPERATE need of help and the #BBB will help in numerous ways.
Do the right think and think of your state & its citizens for once. https://t.co/jLVd8w9jdL
— The Lincoln Watchman👀🇺🇸 (@LincolnWatchman) December 21, 2021
When mine workers are begging for the Build Back Better Act, you know it is the right way to go toward a just energy transition! https://t.co/BdadH8WL3Q
— Dr. Gabriel Filippelli (@GabeFilippelli) December 21, 2021
Coal miners know what's up. And it ain't coal. https://t.co/dJff5pag8R
— Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, PhD (@LeahSchade) December 22, 2021
This is what democracy looks like. https://t.co/U8lKUIImrJ
— Jennifer Hofmann (@inspiredjen) December 22, 2021
Others, citing Manchin's immense wealth, were more skeptical.
this will change his mind, im sure, as he’s in between puffing $100s he’s lighting on fire for fun https://t.co/DR6RKabBT5
— hawkize (@hawkize) December 22, 2021
I have to be honest I don't think he will care. He's not interested in protecting laborers, he's interested in protecting his financial inflow. And the LAST thing he wants is coal workers leaving their jobs for renewable energy. https://t.co/W95UGK1m9B
— Erin Biba (@erinbiba) December 21, 2021
These are coal miner workers in West Virginia.
These are NOT Manchin’s major donors.
Coal miner OWNERS are his constituents. https://t.co/ff7wFR5eka
— Paul (@ybarrap) December 22, 2021
Manchin has yet to respond to the union's concerns.