Is it better to get a guaranteed pension or get back to work? That's the question splitting coal miners and coal-state senators in Washington, D.C.
Some coal-state senators, including Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, are backing a plea from coal miners to have Congress bail out the United Mine Workers pension system.
Thousands of miners and former miners marched on Washington, D.C., last week. They’re calling for a congressional bailout.
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But there is a math problem for the pension system: Approximately 10,000 miners are still working, with nearly 120,000 miners drawing pension benefits.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul said it would be better to get more miners working and wants Congress to end the Obama administration's war on coal.
Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet said there is no doubt what Obama has done to coal mines and coal miners.
"There's a war on coal,” Gonet said. “We're being killed by the president. Our coal production is down 25 percent relative to where we were last year at this time."
Illinois' coal-mining jobs are also down, with only 3,700 miners currently working in Illinois -- 2,000 fewer than in 1995.
"The market for coal right now is bad because of the president's war on coal and because of the low price of natural gas," Gonet said. "Those have been in lockstep to work against us for the last about year-and-a-half in Illinois."