Time is now for Congress to avert pension disaster

[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“As Congress works to develop legislation to fully fund the government for the rest of the year, it is critical that a solution to the looming multi-employer pension crisis be included in that bill. There are several pension funds in crisis that need to be addressed to prevent an economic disaster across the nation. However, the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan is on the cusp of insolvency, and is one more coal company bankruptcy away from going under.

“Retired coal miners earned their pensions, putting their lives and limbs on the line every day they went to work to provide the fuel that energized America. The average pension is just $586 per month. Many of those receiving checks are widows, who depend on that pension and a small Social Security check to live. Now, through no fault of their own, their pension plan is in trouble. The 2008-09 recession and a series of bankruptcies in the coal industry over the last six years have decimated what was a strong pension fund just a decade ago.

“Some say the government should do nothing to help them, instead forcing them to choose between buying groceries or paying for out-of-pocket medical costs. But since 1946, the United States government – Republican and Democrat alike – has lived up to this promise it made to retired miners: ‘If you will bring out the coal that provides the foundation for the American economy, then the government will make sure you have a secure retirement.’

“It’s time for our government to once again demonstrate that it will meet that moral commitment it made 71 years ago. Preserve these pensions, so that tens of thousands of our senior citizens can live out their days with some measure of comfort and security. They earned it.”