For Immediate Release
October 3, 2017
“American Miners Pension Act”
Introduced in Congress Today Will Safeguard Pensions for 100,000+ Coal Miners and Their Families
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives announced today the introduction of the “American Miners Pension (AMP) Act.” The new legislation would protect the pensions of retired coal miners whose pensions have been placed in jeopardy by an unprecedented wave of bankruptcies by coal producers.
The new legislation, building on a gridlock-busting agreement in May 2017 to preserve health care for retired miners and their families, will safeguard U.S. taxpayers against a multi-billion dollar liability from UMWA 1974 Pension Plan insolvency. It also delivers promised retirement benefits to more than 100,000 miners and family members from every corner of the United States.
“This country has benefited greatly from the work of our coal miners. We’ve delivered cheap electricity all across the United States, and a lot of people and corporations have become extremely wealthy as a result,” said United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts. “As one member of Congress said today, coal miners stand up for America every day. Now it’s time for America to stand up for coal miners.”
The AMP Act was introduced today at a Capitol Hill news conference by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ).
The legislation is an innovative, cost-saving approach to the ongoing crisis in America’s coalfields, which has resulted in more than 50 bankruptcies and thousands of layoffs.
The UMWA 1974 Pension Plan was 93 percent funded in 2007, but lost more than $2 billion in assets following the 2008 financial crisis. Due to depressed coal markets, company bankruptcies, consolidations and other factors leading to dramatically fewer employer contributions, the plan has not recovered lost assets and is at risk of becoming insolvent by 2022.
The federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) backs the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan. If the plan becomes insolvent, the PBGC will face a multi-billion dollar liability, putting U.S. taxpayers on the hook and threatening the solvency of PBGC and creating a problem for others insured by the agency.
The bipartisan AMP Act will safeguard taxpayers with unused funds from the Abandoned Mine Land program and low-interest loans from the U.S. Treasury, with principal and interest paid back over a 30-year term.
Actuarial analyses indicate that the UMWA 1974 Plan would need to take loans for as little as four years before a return to sound financial footing, with the ability to make payments to current and future retirees.
“A secure loan now is a much better deal for taxpayers than a huge liability a few years down the road,” said Roberts. “It’s simple fairness for America’s miners, who were promised security in our retirement years when the pension agreement was first signed in the Truman White House back in1946. Contributions were made by signatory operators on every ton of coal mined and later by the number of hours worked. Now it’s time to redeem that promise.”
The bipartisan group of legislators who introduced today’s legislation also worked successfully earlier this year to assist more then 22,000 retired miners and their families, who were at risk of losing health care benefits.
“Some people think you can’t get anything done in Washington,” said Roberts. “But when our members visit legislators and tell their stories, we find that Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate agree on at least one thing. We can’t turn our back on the men and women who went underground year after to year keeping the lights on for our entire country.”