I haven’t seen Amy McGrath’s ad about Moscow Mitch dissing coal miners who suffer from black lung disease yet on the TV, but McGrath is being credited with getting Moscow Mitch to pop his head out of his shell to write a letter to the Labor Department over a current labor dispute between miners and a bankrupt coal company. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
As McGrath ad rips him, McConnell asks Labor Department to support jilted coal miners
First up, McGrath’s ad focused on how Moscow Mitch gave one minute of time to coal miners who are suffering from black lung disease.
Dozens of coal miners are expected on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, where they'll press federal regulators and members of Congress to address the epidemic of deadly progressive massive fibrosis, the advanced stage of black lung disease.
They'll ask lawmakers to fully restore a coal excise tax that pays for medical care and some living expenses for miners diagnosed with black lung, a crippling disease caused by the inhalation of coal and silica dust. The tax was cut more than 50% at the end of last year. It supports the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which is more than $4 billion in debt.
Moscow Mitch wouldn’t commit to restore the excise tax, and the coal companies do not want to restore the excise tax to it’s previous rate of $1.10/ton of coal mined.
McConnell, the Republican leader who represents Kentucky – one of the states that has seen a rebound in the progressive respiratory illness – told them their benefits would be safe but gave no assurances about the excise tax and left without answering questions or offering details, several of the miners who attended the meeting said.
“We rode up here for 10 hours by bus to get some answers from him because he represents our state,” said George Massey, a miner from Harlan County, Kentucky who spent two decades in the mines and is on disability. “For him to come in for just two minutes was a low-down shame.”
So how did Moscow Mitch respond to McGrath’s ad? He didn’t bother to address the excise tax or black lung disease. Instead, Moscow Mitch did the following:
While facing criticism that he has abandoned Kentucky coal miners, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged the U.S. Labor Department “to do everything in its power” to support hundreds of protesting miners who are owed three weeks' pay by their bankrupt former employer.
“I ask the department to do everything in its power to support Kentucky's impacted workers through this difficult and uncertain time,” McConnell wrote to acting Labor Secretary Pat Pizzella in a Wednesday letter. “Any assistance I can provide the department in connecting with the proper state and local officials, I will provide.”
McConnell's letter came as the out-of-work miners continue their now monthlong blockade of a coal train in Harlan County to demand unpaid wages from Blackjewel and as Democratic political rival Amy McGrath criticizes McConnell's reaction to the crisis.
Blackjewel declared bankruptcy on July 1st, and they put a stop on the paychecks to the miners. The coal miners have been blocking the transport of coal from Blackjewel until they get the pay they are owed. The lawyer representing the coal miners pointed out that no where in McConnell’s letter does he support the protests by the miners.
This is an important labor issue, but notice what Moscow Mitch is trying to do. He is a legislator who has it in his domain of power the “power of the purse.” Taxation. Moscow Mitch could actually do something to restore the excise tax on coal and fully fund the health care of black lung sufferers. But what does he do instead? He writes a letter to the Labor Department to do something about a bankrupt coal company that screwed its workers.
And the black lung issue is just like what happened to first responders in NYC during 9/11. Moscow Mitch has been stringing this issue along because he is a cheap bastard and doesn’t care if people die. In fact, if the 9/11 first responders died quickly, funding their health care would go away! Problem solved! The same holds for coal miners with black lung, especially since even Moscow Mitch knows that coal mining jobs are disappearing. Less coal mining jobs, less miners with black lung.
But I will give kudos to Amy McGrath to have prodded Moscow Mitch out of his shell. Maybe more ads like her’s will make Moscow Mitch do a dance next year?