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UMWA Celebrates After Multiyear Battle for Miners Healthcare Benefits



By Steve Maugeri

May 14, 2017 - United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts is celebrating with the coal mining community of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky after a five-year fight to secure coal miners' benefits.

"When you work underground with people and have to depend on one another and live and not be killed, I think that draws people together to live more like a family," Roberts said.

The omnibus spending bill Congress passed this month helped secure healthcare benefits for thousands of coal miners in Kentucky and across the country.

"You got congress to act in a bipartisan way when nobody else could do it," Roberts said to a packed crowd.

However, it came at a cost; Roberts says 26,000 retired coal miners died during that time.

"They didn't want to give it to us, they fought us from day one to up to now and we earned every bit of it," says retired coal miner Kenny Smith.

Smith spent over 30 years working underground. Since then, it's taken a toll on him. He walks around with a heart pump, keeping the blood flowing through his body. He said that pump would have been cut off if he didn't keep his insurance.

"I'm just so happy I'll get to live another few years," Smith said. 

But these miners say it's only a partial victory. Their main objective is to get the Miners Protection Act passed to secure healthcare and pension benefits for all coal miners, a promise they say has been upheld since the 1940s.