Thousands of people gathered in Marion Wednesday morning for a rally about coal miners’ health and retirement benefits being put at risk.
The United Mine Workers of America held the rally at the Pavilion in Marion, Illinois, hoping to bring attention to health and retirement benefits being at risk and two pieces of legislation hoping to protect the benefits.
Leaders apart of the United Miners of America union say there are currently two pieces of federal legislation, one that’s in House and one in the Senate that would help protect and preserve health care and retirement benefits for these miners.
"We’ve seen over the last ten years or so, a drop in production, and corresponding drop in jobs and yet these people still need their benefits. These benefits are now at risk," Communications and Government Affairs Director for the United Mine Workers of America, Phil Smith said.
Smith explained these benefits are at risk because of bankruptcies in the coal fields.
"There are three coal companies in bankruptcy right now," Smith said. "One of the things that happen in bankruptcy court is that these coal companies are allowed to get out of their obligations, the bankruptcy judge can just wipe them away. These people need these benefits. They earned them and that promise needs to be kept."
Smith says the three companies in bankruptcy right now are: Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal, and Jim Walters Energy.
One former coal miner says it’s something he thought would ever happen.
“It was a total surprise," Joe Jackson from Percy, Illinois said. "I thought 31 years, pension, social security, now even that’s questionable. And you think a lot about what will I do.”
The United Mine Workers of America will be heading to Alabama next week to raise awareness about the two pieces of legislation and how people can get involved.
For more information about the United Mine Workers of America, click here.