Coal miners listen to U.S. President Donald Trump at a Make America Great Again rally at the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., 21 August 2018. Photo: Leah Millis / REUTERS

By Timothy Gardner and Grant Smith; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Steve Orlofsky
29 October 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. coal miners union has put a larger share of its campaign donations behind Democrats ahead of the 6 November 2018 elections than in 2016, as dimming hopes for a coal industry revival led by President Donald Trump reinforce fears about the safety of worker pensions.

The United Mine Workers of America has donated nearly 84 percent of its money to Democratic candidates and committees in national races, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance data. That is a roughly 20-point jump from 2016, when Trump courted coal miners with promises of an industry comeback.

The UMWA, pumping more money into races this year, has spent $910,000 of its more than $1 million in total on donations to Democrats and advertising supporting them through mid-October, compared with $250,000 of $395,000 to Democrats through mid-October 2016.

The shift marks a setback for efforts by Trump and the Republican party to maintain control of Congress. He had won over many U.S. coal miners during the last election with promises to scrap Obama-era environmental regulations blamed for the industry’s demise.

While the Trump administration has rolled back some environmental protections in its first two years, the promise of a coal comeback has yet to be fulfilled.

A Reuters survey of utilities found that the administration’s replacement of Obama-era carbon regulations will not save U.S. coal-fired power plants from shutdown.

Ongoing closings of coal-fired plants have meanwhile pushed U.S. coal consumption by utilities this year to the lowest since 1983, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The UMWA said it is not intentionally favoring Democrats but rather donating to lawmakers who support miners’ pension funds, which have been undermined by coal company bankruptcies and which the Republican-led Congress has failed to backstop.

“We have one primary criteria for making contributions to any candidate of either party: Do they support our fight to preserve our retirees’ pensions? If the answer is yes, then we support that candidate,” said Phil Smith, the UMWA’s spokesman. [more]

Coal union boosts giving to Democrats as hopes dim for industry revival

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