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UMWA mourns passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd

date: 
June 28, 2010
For immediate release?: 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TRIANGLE, VA – United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International
President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The United Mine Workers and all coal-mining families and communities
have lost their best friend in U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

“A son of the West Virginia mountains who married into a coal-mining
family, Sen. Byrd dedicated his entire life to making things better for
coal miners everywhere. He was a champion of the 1969 Coal Miner Health
and Safety Act, and convinced President Nixon not to veto the bill. In
the 40 years prior to its passage, 32,000 miners lost their lives on the
job. In the 40 years since, that number stands at slightly more than
3,200. One could argue that thanks to Sen. Byrd’s efforts, 29,000 lives
were saved.

“Since that time, Sen. Byrd consistently fought for additional
protections for miners. He led the charge to secure the 1977 revisions
to the 1969 Act. He fought in 1992 to continue health care benefits for
mining families, and many times since then to secure funding, so that
today, 100,000 UMWA members are still getting benefits. He relentlessly
pushed for answers in the Aracoma and Sago disasters to prevent these
tragedies from occurring again. And he fought for enhanced Black Lung
benefits his entire life.

“Despite failing health, Sen. Byrd fought to the very end to improve
miners’ lives. Last spring, his amendments to the health care bill
restored the process of miners getting – and their widows keeping –
black lung benefits for those miners who have been totally disabled by
this terrible disease. And just last month, he grilled Massey CEO Don
Blankenship during a Senate hearing he led into the Upper Big Branch
mine disaster.

“All of us from the coalfields have lost our best friend in Robert C.
Byrd. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”

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