Monday, November 05, 2018

As 'war on coal' narrative fades, UMWA bases campaign contributions on whether candidates back miner pensions

The United Mine Workers of America has reverted to form. "The top U.S. coal miners' union has put a larger share of its campaign donations behind Democrats ahead of the Nov. 6 elections than in 2016, as dimming hopes for a coal industry revival led by President Donald Trump reinforce fears about the safety of worker pensions," Reuters reports.

The UMWA "has donated nearly 84 percent of its money to Democratic candidates and committees in national races . . . a roughly 20-point jump from 2016, when Trump courted coal miners with promises of an industry comeback," Timothy Gardner and Grant Smith write. "The shift marks a setback for efforts by Trump and the Republican party to maintain control of Congress. He had won over many U.S. coal miners during the last election with promises to scrap Obama-era environmental regulations blamed for the industry’s demise. A Reuters survey of utilities found that the administration’s replacement of Obama-era carbon regulations will not save U.S. coal-fired power plants from shutdown."

The union told Reuters that its main criterion for contributions is support for miner pension funds that "have been undermined by coal company bankruptcies and which the Republican-led Congress has failed to backstop," Gardner and Smith report.

West Virginia University political scientist Simon Haeder told Reuters that the UMWA's giving returns the union to its core labor values, and away from hopes for rebound in the industry. “The ‘war on coal’ narrative is basically over,” Haeder said. “Now the things that people are concerned about are health care and pensions. . . . These are the overwhelming issues that dominate their lives.” The union has more retirees than working miners.

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