1:08 PM PST, December 23, 2021
One of the country’s largest coal miner unions this week has called on Senator Joe Manchin to reconsider his firm opposition to the Build Back Better Act, arguing that pieces of the legislation would support those in the industry.
“We are disappointed that the bill will not pass,” Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said in a statement Monday. “We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.
The West Virginia Democrat publicly disapproved of the president’s $1.75 trillion bill on Sunday, citing issues with national debt and inflation.
“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation,” Manchin said in a statement. “If enacted, the bill will also risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.”
In West Virginia alone, there are an estimated 14,000 coal workers compared to about 130,000 nationwide, according to the US Energy and Employment Report.
The coal miners union argues that this piece of legislation would provide aid to coal workers who fall sick with black lung disease, commonly found in coal miners, and would for the first time financially penalize employers that deny workers their right to form a union, according to Roberts.
The union also argued that the bill would provide tax incentives to clean-energy manufacturers to invest in facilities in coalfields and employ thousands of coal miners who are out of work.
The ambitious bill also includes social policies to prolong the Child Tax Credit, reduce what families pay for child care and prescription drugs, implement paid employee leave, and invest in clean energy.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary called the plan the “most fiscally responsible major bill that Congress has considered in years,” adding that Manchin’s comments are “at odds” with his initial discussions with the president.