Courtesy of President Obama, coal miners in swing states are getting some pre-election pink slips. The job losses raise the possibility of an alliance — or at least a non-aggression pact — between the unions that Obama needs and the industry leaders he attacks.
The president, in replying to complaints about his administration’s regulations, casts himself as a friend of the worker and opponent of corporations that want to “run roughshod” over people. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), though, has succeeded in bringing a Democratic union base into agreement with the billionaires Obama often decries — even the Democratic bogeymen, the Koch brothers.
Obama is waging “war on coal seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families,” according to a Pennsylvania mine manager whose company laid off 225 workers in July. The chief executive of that company explained that “the escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry.”
That complaint provides real-world support for television ads recently run in four states by American Commitment, a super PAC affiliate with the Kochs.
“Today, President Obama is waging a war on coal,” the ad told voters, citing Obama’s comment that anyone who built a coal plant will go bankrupt.
Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., echoed that message in conjunction with a pro-coal campaign placing 150 billboards in six swing states. “Too many lawmakers in Washington have ignored President Barack Obama’s War on Coal,” Griffith said in a statement this week. “The Count on Coal campaign is important to Virginians because it is educating the public that coal is not just about mining jobs, it’s about creating all types of jobs, supplying affordable electricity for families, businesses and doing it in a reliable, trusted way.”
Obama capacity for irritating coal stakeholders is now hurting him among his own base. The United Mine Workers of America announced this week that they will not endorse the president.
“Our members count on coal-fired power plants and burning of coal to keep jobs,” said Mike Caputo, vice president of the UMWA’s International Executive Board. “We’re a very Democratic union and we try to listen to the rank and file. They’ve sent a clear message that they’re not supportive of the environmental rules that are being put in place.”
The mining union gave the president fair warning, too, warning repeatedly in recent years that the EPA rules will cost up to 250,000 direct and indirect job losses.