May 14, 2019 - The president of the United Mine Workers of America said Tuesday that President Trump has helped stop the erosion of the coal industry, with employment holding steady under his administration.
“Coal has not come back if the question is are we anywhere near the levels like 10 years ago,” Cecil Roberts, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti.
"The number of people working in the coal industry as coal miners has remained fairly constant since he went in and there has been a slight uptick in West Virginia,” he continued.
Employment in the coal industry hasn’t budged through most of the Trump administration.
According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 2,000 new coal jobs were created during Trump’s first year in office, but it appears this number has leveled off, with employment remaining steady in coal mining states like Kentucky.
Trump has repeatedly voiced support for the coal industry and rolled back on a number of Obama-era regulations in an effort to help coal plants.
But Roberts said that the president needs to take a stand on legislation that is geared toward protecting coal miners in retirement.
“What we would love to see here is him to take a position and take that Twitter machine of his out and say to the nation these miners earned these benefits and Congress should move and move right away to protect those benefits,” he said referring to the proposed American Miners Act.
The American Miners Act, introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), aims to transfer certain funds to provide pension and health benefits for retired coal miners who have been affected by issues such as coal company bankruptcies.
While critics argue the bailout would set a bad precedent, Roberts contends coals miners are simply looking to recoup the benefits that they’ve earned.
Roberts estimated that roughly 3,300 retirees have died since 2013 while protected under the pension plan.
“The good news is they had the best health care in the world as they passed,” he told Hill.TV. “The bad news is they died worrying about whether or not they were going to lose their pensions.”
While he said that he has “heard nothing” from the White House, he is hopeful that the bill has bipartisan support among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“If this bill was put to a vote in the House of Representatives, it would pass,” he said. “There’s no question about that.”