On Friday, speaking in Homewood, Pennsylvania, former president Bill Clinton criticized the “coal people” in West Virginia for supporting Donald Trump.
Clinton intoned, “We all know how [Hillary’s] opponent has done well down in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The coal people don’t like any of us [Democrats] anymore. They all voted for me. I won twice, and they did well. They blame the president when the sun doesn’t come up in the morning now.”
51.5% of West Virginians voted for Clinton in 1996; by 2012, Barack Obama only won 35.5% of the vote. Another coal state, Kentucky, has experienced the same desire to vote for the GOP; Clinton got 45.8% of the vote in 1996 while Obama only received 37.8% in 2012.
Clinton got herself in trouble with coal miners in May, when she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?” But she followed by adding, “Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”
Clinton has been making an appeal to win back coal miners, urging Republicans to pass the Miners Protection Act, which transfers funds to pay mine workers’ pensions and that coal workers denied health care because their companies go bankrupt still receive health benefits. The bill could affect roughly 30,000 workers.
On Thursday, while the United Mine Workers of America rallied at the U.S. Capitol for a “Keep the Promise” rally, she stated that the government should still fund coal miners’ health and pension funds, asserting, “I firmly believe that if you spent your life keeping the lights on for our country, we can’t leave you in the dark. For more than a century, America’s coal miners have put their own health and safety at risk to provide affordable and reliable energy for the nation. They are entitled to the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve.”
The “Keep the Promise” rally was in reference to a 1946 promise from President Harry Truman for coal miners to receive lifetime retirement benefits. Truman was attempting to forestall a post-World War II strike. Recently, coal companies have been more reticent to provide health care and benefits, according to the UMW.
In August, Trump told Virginia coal miners that roughly 200,000 mining jobs had been lost. He has not commented on the Miners Protection Act.