Weirton Daily Times: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown meets with Ohio mine retirees in Martins Ferry

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Weirton Daily Times: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown meets with Ohio mine retirees in Martins Ferry

MARTINS FERRY — Retired coal miners — the men and women who risked their lives to dig the coal used to keep the nation’s lights on — need and deserve their pension benefits, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said during a stop in Martins Ferry on Wednesday.

Brown said he hopes fellow legislators agree when they consider the recently introduced Miners Pension Protection Act. The goal of the act is shore up the 1974 Pension Plan, which is running out of money due to coal company bankruptcies.

Brown, D-Ohio, met with a group of retired coal miners on Wednesday to assure them the fight to keep their pensions afloat is not over. The meeting was held at the United Steelworkers Local 1238 union hall on Main Street in Martins Ferry.

Retirees and their wives who were present included Norm and Jane Skinner of Dresden, Ohio; Tom and Margie Kacsmar of Morristown; Kathy and George Shultz of Martins Ferry; Laura and Larry Ward of Hopedale; Chuck Pettit; and Dave Dilly of Coshocton. Also present was USW Local 1238 President Rick Altman.

According to information provided by Brown, he and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, along with U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced the Miners Pension Protection Act in May.

“We were successful with the help of Sen. Brown and many others in getting the health care side taken care of, but the promise also included the pension,” Ward said following the informal talk with Brown.

“The pension is very important. For some people, their pension ends up being less than $500 a month and that pays the bills for them. We got to get it fixed, and we certainly intend on having it fixed.

“Our mine workers have fueled this country. Back during the war, when they needed the energy we provided it. That’s been the case forever, and we could provide it today. Unfortunately they have shut down so many coal-fired plants. It’s a very dependable (energy source) for cheap electricity. The problem is not everyone understands what has happened throughout the years.

The government promised this lifetime pension and health care to mine workers …”

Ward noted being a coal miner is not for everyone, but he said he liked the work while doing it.

“I enjoyed working in the coal mine. You have got to be a different kind of person to do that work,” Ward said.

During the lunch, Brown was given an old “permissible miner safety camp light” by the Kacsmars. Such camp lights, via the height of the flame inside, were used to measure the amount of oxygen and methane in the air in underground coal mines. Kacsmar says the one given to Brown likely dates from the 1960s.

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