Retired Kentucky coal miners suffering from black lung say 'rude' Mitch McConnell brushed them off in healthcare meeting: 'A low-down shame'

group of retired Kentucky coal miners suffering from incurable black lung disease slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for brushing them off on Tuesday after they asked the Republican to commit to funding their medical care.


Around 120 miners and their families traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with the Kentucky Republican and pressure him to take action to finance the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which serves as a lifeline for an estimated 12,000former coal miners nationwide.

The miners said McConnell was "rude" during their meeting and quickly left after delivering a brief statement.

"We rode up here for 10 hours by bus to get some answers from him because he represents our state," George Massey, a miner from Harlan County, Kentucky, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "For him to come in for just two minutes was a low-down shame."

According to Reuters, coal companies had previously "been required to pay a $1.10 per ton tax on underground coal to finance the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which supports disabled miners whose employers go bankrupt and can no longer pay out medical benefits. But the amount reverted to the 1977 level of 55 cents [in January] after Congress declined to take action to maintain the rate."

"The coal industry had lobbied hard to allow the tax to drop as scheduled," Reutersreported, "despite a government report saying the fund was in dire financial straits."

Kenny Fleming, a former Pike County miner, said McConnell told the group of miners they "would be taken care of" but didn't offer any concrete assurances.

Miners and advocates are worried that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund could soon become insolvent due to congressional inaction.

Jimmy Moore, the head of the Letcher County Black Lung Association, predicted McConnell would not do anything to protect the former miners.

"He might've stayed a minute," Moore said of McConnell's rapid departure from the meeting on Tuesday. "It was a worthless trip, that's the way I feel."

#story_page_ below_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.