Because of the recent wave of bankruptcies rippling through the coal industry, the health care and pension benefits for thousands of retirees, dependents and widows are threatened. A crowd estimated at around 2,000 turned out Wednesday for a United Mine Workers of America rally at the Pavilion in Marion.
They heard from the union's international president Cecil Roberts, who told them they must continue to sacrifice if they want to keep their health care and pensions. "If you are not willing to write letters to your congressmen, if you are not willing to challenge this issue, we will lose these benefits."
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Bill Burklow from Eldorado is a retired coal miner who says he and his fellow union members just want what is rightfully theirs. "I worked in the coal mine for 34 years. I thinks every man and woman here has earned their pension. We're not asking for a handout. We're asking for what we've earned."
Legislation in Congress would re-purpose money from the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds to preserve the health care and pension benefits of retired coal miners.