Coal miner union urges Joe Manchin to reconsider Build Back Better opposition

Joe Manchin
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the union that represents West Virginia coal miners, urged Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) Monday "to revisit his opposition" to President Biden's Build Back Better 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."

Union president Cecil Roberts specifically pointed to provisions in the legislation that extend an expiring fund for coal miners suffering from black lung disease, encourage businesses to build of manufacturing facilities in coal fields for miners who lose their jobs, and penalize companies that deny workers the right to unionize. "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," he said in a statement. "But now there is no path forward for millions of workers to exercise their rights at work."

"As countless interest groups call on Manchin to reverse course, the statement from the mine workers' union might be the most impactful," The Hill reports. "Manchin was born into a coal mining family and for decades has worked closely with the UMWA, which named Manchin an honorary member last year."

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On the other hand, Manchin "received more campaign donations from the oil, coal, and gas industries than any other senator in the current election cycle," The New York Times reports, and lobbyists for "West Virginia's coal interests" have frequently spoken with Manchin to advocate killing the bill's tax credits to encourage clean energy.

Even without lobbying from America's Power, a coal industry trade group, and the West Virginia Coal Association, "West Virginia coal and gas, and policies designed to stop their burning, have always had a special place in Mr. Manchin's politics" — and personal finances, the Times adds. He started his Senate career literally shooting former President Barack Obama's climate change legislation, and his family coal brokerage, which "has made a small fortune selling waste coal from abandoned mines to a heavily polluting power plant in the state," delivered Manchin $492,000 in dividends, interest, and business income in 2020.

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