CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fair is fair and right is right; and that is why I was proud to stand with some of America's most dedicated and hardworking people, our coal miners, to demand fairness at the UMW rally Monday.
When I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our miners and their families in Charleston we were rallying for fairness and trust. Our miners worked their fingers to the bone every single day to provide the fuel that powers America, and these companies made a promise to them. A promise they earned and deserved.
We were standing up for what is right and what is fair. Our miners and their families depend on the health-care benefits they earned to pay for medicine, doctors' visits and preventive care. After years of hard work, spending countless hours in mine shafts deep beneath the earth, providing the energy that powers our nation, our miners have more than earned health-care coverage for themselves and their loved ones.
A strong mining industry begins with a strong commitment to our miners. For decades, our coal miners have kept our lights on and homes heated. They mined the rock on which America's global economy has been built.
Coal transformed this country from a wilderness into an industrial superpower, providing the steel that built and continues to protect our great nation.
As governor and now as a U.S. senator, I am dedicated to making sure this country never turns its back on these great Americans and this vital industry.
Sen. Rockefeller, Congressman Rahall and I have introduced the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act. This bill protects miners' health-care and pension benefits -- benefits that UMW miners and retirees were promised and worked hard to receive. Together, we have defended the mining industry and improved mine safety while protecting good-paying mining jobs.
Growing up in the small coal-mining town of Farmington and having coal miners in my family, I know how important these benefits are to our coal miners and their families. They held up their end of the bargain by working for years under strenuous conditions to earn basic health care.
At a young age, my mother and my grandmother, Mama Kay, taught me that your word is your bond. On Monday, when I looked out into the rally's crowd, I saw men and women who have kept their word. It is time for their employers to keep their promise to the miners who worked hard for them.
Where I come from, we have a simple saying: You can't shine crap. And by God, this is crap.
After all, fair is fair. Enough is enough. It is time to take a stand for fairness. It is time for these companies to keep their promises to our hardworking miners and their families by continuing to provide their hard-earned health-care benefits and pensions.
Sen. Manchin spoke in Charleston Monday during a miner protest against Patriot Coal's bankruptcy, which seeks to end pension and medical insurance obligations to 23,000 retired miners and dependents in West Virginia and Kentucky.