Last week, we commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day to recognize the sacrifices American workers have made for our country. Throughout our nation’s history, workers have risked their lives down in mines, in factories, on constructions sites and farms, and so many places, to put food on the table, create better lives for their families, and build a stronger economy for all of us. Workers built the American middle class with their bare hands and, to this day, are the main driver of economic growth.
We need to be a country that values hard work and respects the people who do it. We can start by keeping our promise to our nation’s coal miners.
This week, after a fight that took far too long, we finally secured permanent health care security for Ohio coal miners. For months, these miners have been on the verge of losing the health care and retirement they earned. Congress kicked the can down the road, denying these Ohioans peace of mind. Miners and widows received cancellation notices. It was a disgrace. But after that long fight, this week we finally struck a deal guaranteeing these retired workers the full health care they were promised more than 70 years ago.
Our miners sacrificed their backs and lungs to power our country, and we are finally making good on the promise made decades ago that their health care would always be there for them. Over the past weeks and months, I’ve met with miners and their families in Ohio and in Washington. It seems like not a week has gone by that we haven’t seen folks in UMWA t-shirts around the capitol, leading the fight for the health care and pensions they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work.
Our miners are responsible for this victory, and it’s been an honor to stand with them throughout this fight. But we’ve got more work to do to ensure that the pensions they were also promised will be there for them.
At a roundtable in Steubenville, one miner told me it felt to him like no one kept promises anymore. He said that all he and his fellow miners want is for Congress to “just keep the promise.”
They’re not asking for a handout – they’re just asking for what they earned. They sacrificed raises for the promise that they’d be able to retire with dignity. They kept up their end of the deal – it’s time Washington kept up its end.
I’ll keep working to make sure these miners can access their pensions. By honoring our commitment to our miners, we can begin to restore value to hard work and respect to the Ohioans who do it.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator from Ohio.
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