Amy McGrath, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot who is now seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, released a blistering new ad taking aim at her potential general election opponent and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for his failure to help the state’s coal miners.
“We were coal miners with black lung disease going to see our Senator, Mitch McConnell, to try and save our disability benefits,” miner Jimmy Moore says in the video, which has already been viewed more than 2.5 million times. “Ten hours on a bus and we got to see him for all of one minute.” Moore added that McConnell had let the coal companies walk away from the miners.
Our coal miners risked their lives to fuel our country—but Mitch McConnell would only give a group of them with black lung disease a scant minute when they rode 10 hours to visit him in Washington. My question for McConnell: Which side are you on? pic.twitter.com/6dzOZHTKOV
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) August 23, 2019
Moore, along with 120 other miners, travelled to D.C. in July. Since 1977, coal companies have been required to pay $1.10 per ton of underground coal to finance the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which supports miners when their employers can no longer pay out medical benefits. But Congress this year declined to take action to maintain the fund, meaning that it reverted to its pre-1977 rate of just 55 cents per ton.
McConnell’s spokeswoman said at the time that the Senator was “working closely with interested parties regarding future funding for the program and will continue to ensure these important benefits are maintained,” but did not offer specifics and met with the miners for barely two minutes, which miner George Massey described at the time as a “low down shame.”
The McGrath video is not the only example of miner anger simmering in Kentucky. For weeks now, miners have been blocking a train full loaded with roughly $1 million worth of coal from leaving its plant in Harlan County, Kentucky. The protest started after Blackjewel, a coal mining company with over a thousand employees in Appalachia, suddenly and unexpectedly closed down without filing a mandatory 60-days warning notice.
This meant that miners were left high-and-dry, with workers receiving no pay for their final week and discovering that their paycheck for the previous two weeks had bounced, all while they needed money to pay for child support, healthcare, mortgages and other expenses. Lawyers estimate that Blackjewel owes the protesting miners around $4200 each.
McConnell has stated his support for the miners, saying earlier in August that “he believes strongly these miners should be paid in full for their work” and is monitoring the situation. Miners, however, are cautious about McConnell’s alleged support for them.
“Whenever you call McConnell’s office he can’t talk to you,” Collin Cornette, who was one of the miners protesting, previously said. “To my knowledge, he has not even made a statement. He’s not pro-coal, I don’t even think he’s pro-Kentucky.”