Fighting for you in Washington, D.C.
The UMWA is engaged in the nation’s capital on behalf of our members, their families and their communities. We’re fighting to preserve health care and pension benefits for retired UMWA members in the coal industry; for safe, secure jobs for all our members; for a sensible energy policy that recognizes the central role coal can and will continue to play in power generation for decades to come; for quality health care for all Americans and especially retirees; for the protection of Social Security and Medicare for current and future retirees; and for strong protections for workers’ rights on the job.
Here are some of the things we are working on in Washington:
The Bipartisan American Miners Act, S. 2788
Senate Bill 2788, sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had 12 original cosponsors including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito. (R-W.Va.)
The bill addresses two critical issues that confront retired coal miners and their families:
- Preserving pensions for UMWA 1974 Plan beneficiaries and;
- Maintaining health care coverage for retirees of coal companies that went bankrupt in 2018 and 2019
Protecting 1974 Pension Plan Beneficiaries
With the recent bankruptcy filing of the last remaining contributor to the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund, the UMWA expects the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund to become insolvent sometime in 2020. Further, as both UMWA and industry representatives have educated Members of Congress and their staffs, if the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan collapses beneficiaries and their dependents will be dropped into the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), destroying the multi-employer PBGC program and requiring the American taxpayer to foot the bill instead of the private sector companies.
Passing legislation to protect retired miners’ and widows’ pensions as soon as possible is critical.
The Bipartisan American Miners Act builds on language that was included in 2016’s Miners Protection Act regarding transfers to the 1974 Pension Fund to allow the Fund to continue paying pensions and stay out of insolvency. The legislation would protect the pensions of approximately 82,000 current beneficiaries (as of June, 2019) and 10,000 more who have vested for their pensions but have not yet begun drawing them. This number of current beneficiaries steadily declines because of the age of the population.
Specifically the legislation would:
- Include a provision from the original Miners Protection Act allowing transfers of excess funds in the Abandoned Mine Land program to the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan.
- Raise the amount available to be transferred from $490 million to $750 million.
Preserving retiree health care benefits
Legislation passed by Congress in May, 2017 preserved the health care benefits of 22,600 retirees, dependents and widows whose coverage was going to be lost as a result of coal industry bankruptcies in 2012 and 2015. Further bankruptcies occurred in 2018, putting the health care of some 1,200 more retirees at risk of losing their retiree health care by December 31, 2019. S. 2788 includes language that will preserve their health care. Also, with the most recent 2019 bankruptcy, another 13,000 retirees have had their retiree health care put at risk by sometime next year. To address this, S. 2788 has included language that would preserve these retirees health care as well.
- 2788, The Bipartisan American Miners Act was introduced on November 6, 2019. See a list of Senate co-sponsors here.
The Miners Pension Protection Act of 2019, HR 935
House Resolution 935, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), solely addresses preserving UMWA 1974 Plan pensions using the same transfer ability and funding from the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund as does S. 2788.
H.R. 935 was introduced on January 31, 2019. See a list of House co-sponsors here. The bill received a hearing in the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources committee on July 24, 2019. See the full video of the hearing here.
On October 23, 2019, H.R. 935 was voted out of the full House Natural Resources Committee.
The Health Benefits for Miners Act of 2019, HR 934
House Resolution 934, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), addresses preserving the health care benefits of those retirees whose companies went bankrupt in 2018 and were or will be relieved of paying for retiree health care as a result of the decision of a bankruptcy court. This legislation mirrors language passed by Congress in 2017 to preserve the health care of 22,600 retirees, dependents and widows. It also uses the same language that is incorporated in S. 2788.
H.R. 934 was introduced on January 31, 2019. See a list of House co-sponsors here. This bill also received a hearing on July 24, 2019, the same date as H.R. 935 in the House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. As with H.R. 935, on October 23, 2019, H.R. 934 on October 23, 2019 was voted out of the full House Natural Resources Committee.
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