Group of senators push for legislation to protect coal miners during pandemic

Washington DC Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A group of senators from both parties wants to provide extra protections for mine workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I mean, it’s one of the most dangerous occupations,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said.

Kaine is one of the sponsors of the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act.

“It’s dangerous enough pre-coronavirus, and we want to make sure that our miners are protected during this health crisis,” Kaine said.

Kaine says this bill would forbid mine operators from retaliating against miners who report a COVID-19 infection.

It would also instruct the Mine Safety & Health Administration to require companies to take action to protect minors from the virus. West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito says the miners in her state need the same protections as other workers.

“Whether it’s distancing, whether it’s sanitation, whether it’s mask-wearing, whether its hand sanitizers, and I think MSHA needs to give more guardrails here,” Capito said, referring to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey believes this should have been taken care of without the need for a bill.

“I don’t understand why MSHA or Secretary of Labor [Eugene] Scalia needs to have legislation passed to tell them how to do their job, but apparently that’s what we’re going to have to do because they have utterly refused to provide these protections,” Casey said.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner agrees.

“Let’s make sure that we stand with them as they continue to provide an essential service in terms of how we power part of our economy,” Warner said.

The senators say the legislation should be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

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