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'If These Miners Were Bankers, Congress Would Have Bailed Them Out Already,' Says Sanders as Bankrupt Murray Coal Threatens Pensions

"My Green New Deal will protect the pensions workers were promised and provide a just transition for all fossil fuel workers."

Coal miner Jaden Fredrickson of Cheat Lake, West Virginia at the Harvey Mine on April 13, 2017 in Sycamore, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday emphasized the need for a Green New Deal that guarantees "a just transition for all fossil fuel workers" after coal mining giant Murray Energy filed for bankruptcy this week—potentially imperiling the jobs, pensions, and healthcare benefits of tens of thousands of miners.

"If these miners were bankers, Congress would have bailed them out already," said Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "My Green New Deal will protect the pensions workers were promised."

"We have seen this sad act too many times before. But that does not mean we will sit idly by and let the company and the court dictate what happens to our members and our retirees."
—Cecil Roberts, United Mine Workers of America

Sanders' Green New Deal plan, released in August as part of his presidential campaign platform, stresses the importance of ensuring financial security for any fossil fuel workers displaced by the transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

"This plan will prioritize the fossil fuel workers who have powered our economy for more than a century and who have too often been neglected by corporations and politicians," Sanders' proposal states. "We will guarantee five years of a worker's current salary, housing assistance, job training, healthcare, pension support, and priority job placement for any displaced worker, as well as early retirement support for those who choose it or can no longer work."

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Murray Energy, the largest private coal company in the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections Tuesday morning. Robert Murray, the company's founder and a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, agreed to relinquish his role as CEO and president but will remain chairman.

In addition to threatening the jobs of around 7,000 current Murray Energy employees, the company's bankruptcy filing could also spell disaster for tens of thousands of retired miners.

"Murray Energy is the last major company contributing to the pension plan of the United Mine Workers of America," CNN reported. "The pension plan's depleted funding will only get worse if Murray Energy is relieved of its pension requirements."

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, predicted in a statement that Murray Energy will attempt in bankruptcy proceedings to shed "its obligations to retirees, their dependents, and widows."

"We have seen this sad act too many times before," said Roberts. "But that does not mean we will sit idly by and let the company and the court dictate what happens to our members and our retirees."

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