The president of the United Mine Workers of America says Senator Jay Rockefeller’s announcement in the Capitol City Friday was sad news.
“I often thought for many years what it would be like not to have Senator Byrd and Senator Rockefeller and now I guess I’m about to find out,” said UMWA president Cecil Roberts. “And it doesn’t necessarily look that appealing.”
The five-term senator announced at the Culture Center he will not be running for re-election in 2014.
Roberts has known the 75-year-old Rockefeller for about 40 years and believes his greatest achievement was the passage of the Coal Act in 1992, which helped prevent a nationwide coal strike and preserved health benefits for 200,000 retired miners and their families.
“Every retiree in every state of the union still has healthcare because of the legislation Senator Rockefeller passed,” said Roberts. “On a personal level it’s a sad day, but on an institutional level too.”
Roberts recalls how special Rockefeller’s speech was following the passage of the bill.
“He was talking about his mother dying and she died of Alzheimers and he pointed out that she had the best healthcare in the world. And then he said everyone is not named Rockefeller though, but everyone loves their mother,” said Roberts. “So these coal miners, they deserve the best healthcare in the world too.”
Roberts said his mother was one of the many who benefited from that legislation.
Despite not liking the fact of going on without Sen. Rockefeller, Roberts understands there is always a time to move on.