Appalachian and Western coal communities call for fast action from President-Elect Trump and Interior Nominee Zinke

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Hundreds of coal workers demand Trump make good on promise to defend working people against “special interests”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers ipajer-rogers@iwj.org

WASHINGTON, DC (December 15, 2016) — Hundreds of coal miners from Appalachia to Western coal lands have sent an openletter to President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), requesting their much-needed help for coal communities across the country. 

In the letter, coal miners and their families urge the incoming Administration to take action to ensure coal industry CEOs and their companies keep their promises to reclaim the mines they developed, which would create jobs in coal communities, and to protect promised pension and health benefits. 

While coal companies nationwide have declared bankruptcy, laying off thousands of working people, coal industry CEOs and senior executives have reaped multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses and even proposed cuts to pensions and health benefits for retirees and workers who have suffered injuries on the job. Some companies are also maneuvering in federal and state courts to break their promises to taxpayers to create local jobs in coal communities by cleaning up the public land and waterways affected by mining operations.

“You’re making a promise to somebody when you hire them and tell them, ‘This is your retirement; this is what we’re going to do,’” said Branden Walsh, a coal miner in Gillette, Wyoming. “And now they’re reneging on that and getting bonuses for doing that. I can’t think of anything worse. The coal companies should focus a little bit harder on re-training their laid-off employees.”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Zinke would oversee coal that is developed from publicly owned minerals as well as the reclamation of mines on public and private lands across the country.

The letter, which was organized by the nonprofit Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), asks the Trump Administration to stop coal companies from abandoning their responsibility to clean up old mines. Moreover, legislation to protect miners’ health and retirement benefits as well as legislation that would make investments in re-training workers in coal country failed to pass in the 114th Congress. IWJ hopes the Trump Administration will stand up for these working people and their families.

“I worked in the mines for 25 years until I had an accident and could not work anymore,” said Charles E. Boyd of McCalla, Alabama. “I am on disability due to my work injury. I also have black lung. My pension and health benefits was promised to coal miners by our government.  Please keep the promise.” 

As the President-elect Trump prepares to take office and Congressman Zinke is considered for the next Secretary of the Interior, coal miners implore them to take action on these vital issues.

The miners quoted in this release and others are available for interview by phone upon request. To arrange an interview, please contact Ian Pajer-Rogers at ipajer-rogers@iwj.org. To view the letter and an interactive signers map, please visit http://www.helpcoalworkers.org/.

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