“The country must not turn its back on coal miners," Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told constituents in eastern Kentucky. But his message was not in defence of those who go down the mines but for the profits of the mine-owner magnates.
Joseph Holland, a retired union coal miner in Owensboro, said, "He says he supports coal, but you know no evidence that he's supported the coal miner."
McConnell has been repeatedly blocking a bill that would provide a pension plan and health benefits to about 13,000 retired coal miners in his home state. McConnell places his allegiance with coal barons, and not their workers. The Miners' Protection Act, would make certain that union retirees who lost healthcare benefits after the bankruptcy or insolvency of an employer are eligible for the benefits. Last week the Patriot Voluntary Employee Beneficial Association notified about 12,500 retired union coal miners last week that their health benefits would cease on Dec. 31 without congressional action
As coal has declined, the ailing industry has been attempting to "jettison all pension obligations to miners" while still giving multi-billion-dollar bonus packages to executives, as Kelly Mitchell of Greenpeace noted.
“We're dying like flies," said Billy Smith, a coal miner for 39 years who said McConnell's lack of support was difficult to understand, given all the ailments he sees among his fellow retirees in his local union.