Manchin’s Choice on Build Back Better: Mine Workers or Mine Owners

Chris Hamilton, the president of the West Virginia Coal Association, which represents the owners, said coal employment would remain viable for years to come, and he accused the unions of “waving a white flag.” He also suggested they did not understand the damage that renewable energy incentives in the bill would do to what is left of coal.

“Frankly, we were shocked” when the unions endorsed the social policy and climate legislation, Mr. Hamilton said.

“We would have thought they’d have gone down swinging,” he added. “I don’t think we ought to be trading one job for another, particularly basic fossil energy jobs which are extremely well paid and carry benefits — and could last for another generation.”

Phil Smith, the United Mine Workers’ chief lobbyist, responded, “We’re still swinging, but we’re swinging in a smart way and in a way that will provide a real future for fossil energy workers in West Virginia and throughout the country.”

Union officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering mine owners, said Mr. Manchin should not be listening to the West Virginia Coal Association, which includes some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters and switched allegiances in 2018 to back Mr. Manchin’s Republican challenger in that year’s election, Patrick Morrisey.

Such personal considerations should not be overlooked. The United Mine Workers made Mr. Manchin an honorary member in 2020 for his work securing pension, health and black lung benefits. At every turn, the senator notes that he lost an uncle, high school classmates, friends and neighbors in a 1968 explosion at a mine in Farmington, W.Va., that killed 78 miners.

And while Mr. Manchin has snapped at reporters in the Capitol shouting questions about Build Back Better negotiations, his spokeswoman, Sam Runyon, was effusive about his concern for mine workers.