At a June 3 gathering of UMWA workers, President Cecil Roberts noted the union’s long past of fighting for coal miners’ rights — from health care benefits to the end of child labor. While noting the cyclical pressure of natural gas prices and recent weather trends, Roberts said the stress the coal industry finds itself under is unprecedented and certainly influenced by the Obama administration.
While the Clean Power Plan is being challenged as a draft rule on multiple fronts, Roberts said the UMWA intends to sue over the Clean Power Plan once it is finalized.
“Under the Obama administration the UMWA sued EPA over the [Mercury and Air Toxics Standards] rule, and as we stand here today I assure that our lawyers are preparing to sue the agency again once the Clean Power Plan and New Source rule become final,” Roberts said in prepared remarks. “We have not, and we will not stand by while our members’ jobs are under attack from any source, in any administration.”
Roberts noted that the “market has taken a terrible toll” on coal companies and those regulations are “reshapingwhat the market for coal is now and will be in the future.” He said the administration’s new rules aimed at carbon dioxide emissions — the Clean Power Plan for existing generators and the New Source Performance Standards for new power plants — will make it nearly impossible to continue burning coal to generate electricity at existing plants or to build new coal plants without “a sudden and vast leap” in coal-burning technology.
“Our active members are being laid off in numbers we haven’t seen in decades,” Roberts said. “Several major employers of our members either have filed bankruptcy or are on the verge of doing so. This puts the health care benefits for more than 97,000 retirees, dependents and widows at risk. Our pension plan is in critical status, and we are faced with the real possibility that employers will want to withdraw from it if we can’t pass legislation to fix the pension plan’s funding issues by the end of 2016. As we prepare to negotiate a new contract in 2016, we expect to be confronted with employers who want to make wholesale changes to decades of improvements in our collective bargaining agreements, attacking job classifications, seniority protections, health care and other benefits, and more.”
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- On June 4, 2015