Coal Tattoo

UMWA backs Tennant in U.S. Senate race

Tennant Power Plant

The Gazette’s Dr. Paul Nyden had the story from yesterday’s Labor Day Picnic down in Racine:

On Monday, Roberts and the UMW announced their endorsement of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in her race against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

“You stand with us,” Roberts said to Tennant, “so today, we proudly stand with you.”

Here’s the UMWA’s press release:

The United Mine Workers of America’s (UMWA) National Council of COMPAC, the union’s political action arm, last week voted unanimously to endorse West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the United States Senate.

“Natalie has been a strong supporter of active and retired UMWA members throughout her entire career, and was an especially strong supporter of our members and their families during last year’s battle to preserve jobs, pensions and retiree health care when Patriot Coal declared bankruptcy,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts in announcing the endorsement today

“She stuck with us in that fight, and I believe the strong support we received from her and other political leaders who came to our side made a huge difference in the successful outcome we were able to achieve at Patriot Coal,” Roberts said. “We will never forget the strength of her commitment to our cause.

“And don’t let anyone fool you – Natalie Tennant is standing with coal miners again in our fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules that threaten our members’ jobs, our retirees’ security, and our communities’ ability to survive,” Roberts said.

“West Virginia coal miners give their lungs, their knees and their backs to power this country, and they deserve a Senator who will put their health and safety above corporate profits,” said Tennant. “While I am fighting to protect coal jobs and keep our miners working, I will fight just as hard to keep them safe, and protect the health care and pensions they have earned over a lifetime or work.”

Tennant has said her very first act as Senator will be to sign on to the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, which was introduced in response to the Upper Big Branch mine tragedy that took the lives of 29 coal miners in 2010. Tennant has also pledged to support bankruptcy reform to ensure the promises made to miners while they are working are kept when they retire.

“Natalie Tennant gets it,” Roberts said. “She gets how important health and safety on the job is for coal miners because she saw the suffering of friends and neighbors who lost loved ones in the Farmington #9 disaster. She gets how important pensions and retiree health care are for tens of thousands of retired West Virginia coal miners because she knows so many of them personally. She’s been in their homes, had supper at their tables, listened to their concerns.

“And Natalie Tennant gets how critical it is to West Virginia to preserve the coal jobs we have today,” Roberts said. “She marched side by side with us in July in Pittsburgh as we protested the EPA’s rules. We didn’t ask her to come; she came on her own because she is committed to coal miners, their families, their jobs and their communities. That’s the kind of leadership West Virginia families need.”

The union’s endorsement came after a long internal process, starting with a poll of UMWA membership conducted by Hart Research Associates earlier this year that showed Tennant was the clear choice over her opponent, Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R), among UMWA members in West Virginia. The West Virginia State Council of COMPAC voted to endorse Tennant by a 37-1 margin prior to the National Council’s action last week.