The United Mine Workers union endorses Democrat Natalie Tennant for U.S. Senate, the union announced at its 76th annual Labor Day rally at John Slack Park in Racine.
Cecil Roberts, president of the union, said Monday Tennant’s support of the UMW helped win the endorsement, including when she marched with union members in Pittsburgh during Environmental Protection Agency hearings in July.
“I looked off to my right and who is marching beside me? Natalie Tennant is marching beside me,” Roberts said to the crowd of hundreds gathered for the rally.
The UMW supported Tennant’s opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., for a congressional run in 2004.
Capito’s campaign released a statement Monday saying Tennant is out of touch, and that Capito is “the only candidate in this election fighting on (coal miners’) behalf every single day.”
Both candidates have made coal a centerpiece of their campaigns and have vowed to fight against what many consider to be oppressive federal regulations.
Tennant discussed her support of mine safety, health care and Social Security during her remarks.
She said if elected, her first priority will be to “sign on to the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Act.”
“You have given your lungs, you have given your back, you have given your knees to power this country,” Tennant told union members gathered at Monday’s rally.
Currently, Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall, all Democrats, are sponsors of the Senate and House versions of the bill, respectively.
Tennant said she believes she can work to strike a balance between coal-related jobs and clean air. She said she would challenge President Barack Obama to support investment in clean coal infrastructure.
“I will give solutions so we can win that fight,” she said, referring to preserving coal jobs. “It’s not enough to just be ‘for coal.’”
Tennant also said she is against privatizing Social Security and creating a voucher system for Medicare.
“I will not balance a budget on the backs of our coal miners,” she said.
She also supports legislation requiring equal pay for men and women.
Monday’s rally also featured appearances by Rahall, State Treasurer John Perdue and West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue.
Rahall said it is “a humbling experience” to received the UMW’s endorsement again in 2014. He said he wanted voters to consider his seniority, and therefore influence, in Congress compared to the rest of West Virginia’s delegation and said he is “the last pro-coal incumbent Democrat in the House.”
Like Tennant, Rahall emphasized mine workers’ safety as an important goal.
“It’s fine to be a friend of coal,” he said. “It’s the friends of coal miners that really count when the rubber meets the road.”
Rahall also criticized the spending of out-of-state interests in the campaign.
Kenny Perdue told those gathered to “vote for the people that support you in office.”
Perdue criticized Capito for running a negative campaign, saying “it’s all about trying to slam somebody” and he jokingly told the political trackers in the audience, “God bless you, ‘cause you’re sinning.”
Perdue also emphasized his support for both Tennant and Rahall.