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With benefits at risk, coal miner union rallies in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Thousands of retired coal miners are calling on Congress to protect their benefits as the industry struggles and operators seek bankruptcy protection from debts.

United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts told the gathering of about 4,000 members from seven states Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky, that miners spent their lives working in dangerous mines to provide the nation’s electricity and steel. Roberts said the miners don’t deserve to have their benefits put in jeopardy.

Roberts said, “America owes us, and we will collect on that debt.”

The union says about 22,000 retired union miners would lose benefits if federal legislation they are seeking isn’t enacted this year.

Recent bankruptcies and a depressed coal market have decreased contributions to the pension fund by two-thirds from last year’s levels.

In related news, Report: Kentucky coal at lowest production since 1950s.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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