WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Frustration is boiling over for thousands of coal miners at risk of losing their retirement money.
Miners rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday, urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would rescue retirement funds on the verge of collapse.
“What about the people who’ve given their health to America? Their lives to America?” United Coal Workers President Cecil Roberts demanded during the rally.
The miners’ pension fund will run out of cash in just three years. Created in 1974, it lost millions during the great recession as coal mining companies filed for bankruptcy.
“To hold that carrot in front of us all those years and then to yank it away, it ought to be illegal,” West Virginia miner Michael Payton said. “To most people it may not sound like a lot, but $500, when you’re budgeted on that to buy your medicine, to buy your bread, to buy your stuff, it would just devastate It.”
Retired Ohio minor Mel Woods said doing nothing would be unconscionable.
“It’s just a bad situation. No one wants to work all their lives and have it taken away,” he said.
A bill to restore the money called the American Miners Act has bipartisan support, but still not on board is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“Put it on the table, Mitch,” bill sponsor Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., insisted. “Let us vote.”
“Now is not the time to stop,” Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, Manchin’s Republican partner from West Virginia, said. “I will not, we will not stop, until we get the right result.”
The plan has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she wants to see it passed.