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WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) - The head of the main U.S. mine workers' union has invited all of the Democratic presidential candidates to visit its "turf" to demonstrate that the party still represents the working class.
The invitation could heap pressure on the nearly two dozen Democrats vying for the White House to explain how their plans to combat climate change - most of which call for an end to fossil fuels use - will impact mining jobs.
"If Democrats are to win back the vote of so many who have deserted the party in the last several elections, it is exactly these kinds of voters who you need to persuade," United Mine Workers of America President Phil Smith said on Monday in a letter to the candidates that asked them to speak to miners on their "turf."
President Donald Trump frequently put coal miners in the spotlight in his 2016 presidential campaign, vowing to put them back to work, in part by cutting environmental regulations ushered in by the Obama administration.
Despite this, coal-fired power plants have closed under Trump's presidency at a faster rate than during the Obama administration and some of the biggest coal miners have declared bankruptcy. The country's sixth-largest coal producer, Blackjewel LLC, filed for bankruptcy last week, putting 600 Wyoming miners out of work without warning.
The letters were first reported on Tuesday by NBC News.
Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed aggressive climate change policies that would usher in a rapid shift away from the use of coal in favor of renewable energy.
Sixteen of the 20 leading Democratic contenders, for example, have endorsed or co-sponsored the so-called Green New Deal, a non-binding congressional resolution to end the fossil-fuel economy within a decade through massive government investments in clean energy. The resolution was introduced by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Although that platform outlines several policies aimed at strengthening unions, protecting workers' pensions and benefits and retraining, unions like UMWA have been wary of endorsing a Green New Deal and wary of policies guaranteeing workers a "just transition."
The UMWA and a few other unions representing fossil fuel workers have endorsed other policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions like cap-and-trade systems. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Dan Grebler)