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10/13/2004

Kerry and Edwards are Miners' Best Hope to Rectify Horizon Bankruptcy Court Injustice

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts and Large Delegation of West Virginia Coal Miners To "Early Vote" On Wednesday in Kanawha and Fayette Counties
Says Kerry and Edwards are Miners' Best Hope to Rectify Horizon Bankruptcy Court Injustice and Find a Long-Term Solution to the Coal Act's Funding Problems


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts and a large delegation of Cannelton coal miners will "early vote" on Wednesday, Oct. 13, in both Kanawha and Fayette Counties. At 9 a.m., Roberts will welcome the group of miners at L.U. 8843's local hall on Route 2, a little over a mile off Route 60. From there, Roberts and one group of miners will caravan to vote at the Kanawha County Courthouse Annex at 415 Quarter Street in Charleston. Another group of miners will caravan to vote at the Fayette County Courthouse at 100 Court St. in Fayetteville. Members of the press are encouraged to be at the local hall at 9 a.m. and then follow the caravans.

West Virginia's "early vote" program allows registered voters statewide to cast their ballot ahead of Nov. 2, or Election Day. Most of the miners joining Roberts worked at Horizon Natural Resources' Cannelton mine. They were all displaced recently after a federal bankruptcy judge allowed Horizon to void its contracts with the UMWA. The judge also allowed Horizon to strip its workers of their promised health care benefits.
"The UMWA will not tell any of these miners for whom they must vote, but these workers know which candidates have publicly addressed what happened to them in bankruptcy court and are now vowing to work with us to try and rectify the injustice," said Roberts. "Those candidates are John Kerry and John Edwards."
Roberts said that the UMWA has not heard anything from the Bush Administration concerning the injustice imposed on the Horizon miners and retirees in bankruptcy court. He explained that President Bush has had four years-and a Republican majority in both bodies of Congress-to try and find a long-term solution to the Coal Act's funding problems, but that the president has offered no plan.

"The Administration announced earlier this year that it was extending our members involvement in a pilot Medicare prescription drug program," explained Roberts. "This was welcome news because it offered some much-needed temporary financial relief to the Coal Act. But I would note that when the Administration announced the extension, it also said it favored finding a long-term solution to the funding problems. That rhetoric is great, but coal miners are now demanding action to back up the words. This funding problem is not going away, and it is getting worse every day. Just look at what happened to the Horizon miners and retirees. Had the Bush Administration acted to help and worked with the UMWA to find a long-term solution to the problem the 1993 Benefit Plan, which picks up health care benefits for 'orphaned' miners, would be financially solvent and able to absorb our Horizon members without breaking the bank. That is not the case though. Today, the '93 Plan is stretched to its maximum and there is a real fear it might soon collapse. John Kerry and John Edwards are vowing to help because they understand that the federal government's promise to coal miners of cradle-to-grave health care must be kept."

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