WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today introduced the Miners Protection Act. This legislation would ensure that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies.
“The coal mining community is the heart of West Virginia. Our hard-working coal miners have dedicated their careers to keeping the lights turned on in our homes, schools and businesses. This bipartisan bill will safeguard the hard-earned benefits our miners and their families have earned and will provide them the peace of mind they deserve,” said Senator Capito.
Retired miners are facing uncertainty because the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan is severely underfunded. Unlike other public and private pension plans, the 1974 Pension Plan was well-managed and funded prior to the 2008 financial crisis, which hit at a time when this Plan had its highest payment obligations. This – coupled with the fact that 60% of the beneficiaries are “orphan” retirees whose employers are no longer in the coal business, and the fact that there are only 10,000 active workers for 120,000 retirees – has placed the Plan on the road to insolvency. If the Plan becomes insolvent, these beneficiaries face benefit cuts and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will assume billions of dollars in liabilities.
To address these issues, the Miners Protection Act would: