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State, Ky. Republicans sponsor Patriot legislation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The United Mine Workers of America thanked three Republicans Wednesday for sponsoring federal legislation to secure health-care benefits for workers and retirees hurt by Patriot Coal's bankruptcy.

Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, both West Virginia Republicans, took criticism Tuesday as thousands of miners rallied in Fairmont to protest cuts that St. Louis-based Patriot says it must make to survive.

McKinley and Capito announced on the day of the rally that they had joined Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky in sponsoring the Caring for Coal Miners Act. It would use existing coal revenues to help offset health-care costs.

Democrats have already introduced bills supporting the miners. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia sponsored the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act.

Police arrested about 30 people at the rally, which was the union's 14th protest so far. UMWA President Cecil Roberts promised there will be many more.

Patriot said last week that it's imposing less-severe wage and benefit cuts on its miners than it could have under a federal bankruptcy court ruling. The company also said it will keep retired workers' health plans unchanged for the next two months while it continues negotiating with the union.

Roberts said he'll work with any party willing to do right by miners.


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