WFPL’s Erica Peterson has an important look at the “War on Coal” and its history — and as this graph makes clear, if there is a “War on Coal” it began long before President Obama:
The funny thing about that image, if you want to call it funny, is that the “War on Coal” appears to be a bipartisan effort. If Obama is waging such a war, then he’s doing a far worse job of destroying coal jobs than did Ronald Reagan. Whether it’s Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton or Obama — they all seem to have one thing in common. Heck even the very modest gains under Bush 2 came in the latter half of his time in office — and his very slight uptick is the only bright spot in this 30 year history and is perhaps the only time that George W. Bush’s inability to execute a war has done anyone any good.
The other thing these Presidents and their “War on Coal” have in common is Mitch McConnell:
Over Mitch McConnell’s five terms in office, Kentucky’s lost over 22,000 coal jobs. That’s Mitch McConnell’s record and now all of a sudden, he wants people to believe that he’s gonna start saving the coal industry.
Yesterday, Alison Grimes and Bill Clinton were in Hazard (note to McConnell DC advisers: That’s an actual place in Eastern Kentucky) for a rally. In attendance were a lot of coal miners, some of them from the United Mine Workers of America. The UMWA over the weekend endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes.
An endorsement from the people who actually work in the mines seems like a pretty good sign for Ms. Grimes — and should be a good indication as to what they think of McConnell’s three decade long record on protecting coal miners.
So of course, the McConnell campaign decided to attack the coal miners. Seizing on a bit of information in a Phillip Bailey/WFPL report, McConnell’s attack dogs took to Twitter in an attempt to discredit the miners and undermine their endorsement:
— Allison Moore (@MAllison_Moore) August 7, 2014
— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) August 7, 2014
Some of the miners were from West Virginia! Ohhhh, we hate West Virginia miners! Those dirty scoundrels from across the border, hordes of them coming into our state to protect their industry. The horror.
Of course, if the McConnell campaign had any actual interest in protecting or even helping coal communities or coal miners, they’d be a little less eager to celebrate the fact that UMWA miners travelled from West Virginia. Because there is, in fact, a good reason they did — and it has everything to do with Mitch McConnell’s War on Coal.
Let’s travel back in time to 2007 for this helpful report from the Center for Rural Journalism, entitled: UMWA has no working miners in Eastern Kentucky, but union’s heritage remains strong.
First of all… the UMWA, like unions do, takes care of its miners after the mines close — unlike many of the mine operators. Non unionized mines just pack up shop when they can’t compete with natural gas or cheaper extraction methods out West, blame Obama and tell the miners, their families and their communities to get wrecked. The UMWA, on the other hand:
Leonard Fleming, 65, of Kona in Letcher County, said his local, made up entirely of retirees, still meets once a month.
The union’s political action committee remains active, endorsing candidates and supporting or opposing legislation. In the past year and a half, the union put its lobbying weight behind new mine health and safety laws and regulations.
“By no means are we out of the picture in Kentucky,” said Smith. “We still play a large role in the political life” of the state.
Several thousand UMWA retirees live in Kentucky, and the union still represents workers at a Western Kentucky mine. Widows of miners also belong to the union.
The union pays out $71 million in pensions and $91 million in healthcare expenditures each year.
“That’s money going into the small, rural, coalfield communities where it’s needed most,” Smith said.
You can almost see the folks at the McConnell campaign shaking their heads in disgust at such behavior. “Those dirty miners!”
So there are a lot of retired UMWA miners in Eastern Kentucky, but why aren’t there more active ones? Well, because thanks to Mitch McConnell’s three decade War on Coal:
The UMWA once represented more than 700,000 members nationwide. “Today the union represents perhaps one-third of coal miners,” according to The Associated Press.
UMWA members say the union disappeared at Eastern Kentucky mines because of the rise of less labor-intensive strip mining, advanced mechanization at underground mines, scaled-back mining operations that employ fewer workers, smaller companies that are strongly anti-union, and labor laws that make it tough to organize new mines as unionized workplaces were mined out and closed.
….As more coal-fired power plants installed “scrubbers” to remove sulfur dioxide from their smokestack emissions, many shuttered mines re-opened as the ‘90s drew to a close, but many mines that were once unionized reopened as nonunion, Smith said.
The UMWA still believes that it is important to organize those mines, he said. “It’s a tough challenge but we’re not giving up on it.”
Smith said coal operators are powerful, and “In today’s political climate they can get away with violating labor laws,” intimidating workers and threatening to close the mines if they were unionized — “all illegal,” Smith said.
You got that, McConnell campaign? There weren’t active UMWA members at the Grimes event… because the coal operators found ways to cut miners out of their extraction equation and deunionize the ones they had left.
Does that mean that all coal miners in Kentucky are secretly for Grimes and not McConnell, they’re just not allowed to say for fear of their jobs? Does that mean they all want to be in the UMWA but can’t because they have kids to feed? Nope. But if you dismiss the realities of what’s happening in coal communities, then are you really supporting them?
The UMWA didn’t endorse Barack Obama in 2012 because of his record on coal, and in 2014 they didn’t endorse Mitch McConnell either.
It appears that hurts Team Mitch’s feelings. But attacking coal miners for giving a damn? That’s a low blow in Mitch McConnell’s War on Coal.
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) August 7, 2014