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 keep health care and pension benefits for retired UMWA members in the coal industry secure; 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:
COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and seven bi-partisan co-sponsors introduced this legislation as S. 3710 in May. With the refusal of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to develop an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect miners from exposure to COVID-19 on the job, the UMWA worked with Sen. Manchin to develop this legislation and get it introduced.
Without an industry-wide, enforceable standard, miners are left to the whims of coal operators regarding protective measures that are employed at the mine to limit exposure to the virus. Those protective measures cannot be limited to just the use of face masks. Social distancing in elevators, mantrips and bathhouses must be mantained, extra cleaning and decontamination measures must be in place and consistently applied, and other measures are urgently needed. The only chance miners have for these measures to be taken seriously and implemented industry-wide is if mine superintendants know inspectors will write citations if they are not.
In July, a companion bill, H.R. 7700, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) Click here to read more information about S. 3710, including the bill text, a summary and a list of co-sponsors. Click here to read more information about H.R. 7700, including the bill text and a list of co-sponsors.
Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act
Introduced as H.R. 2474 by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), this critical piece of legislation would finally put teeth back into the National Labor Relations Act with respect to organizing workers.
Under the bill, once workers vote to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would be authorized to order that the employer commence bargaining a first contract. These orders would be enforced in district courts to ensure swift justice for the workers of that bargaining unit or job site.
The bill would ensure that employees are not deprived of their right to form a union because their employer hides behind a subcontractor or other intermediary, or deliberately misclassifies them as supervisors or independent contractors.
The bill also recognizes that employees need the freedom to picket or withhold their labor in order to push for changes and improvements at the workplace. The PRO Act protects employees’ right to strike by preventing employers from hiring permanent replacement workers. It also allows unrepresented employees to engage in collective action or class action lawsuits to enforce basic workplace rights, rather than being forced to arbitrate such claims alone.
Finally, the PRO Act would eliminate state right-to-work laws. These laws have been promoted by a network of billionaires and special interest groups to give more power to corporations at the expense of everyday workers, and have had the effect of lowering wages and eroding pensions and health care coverage in states where they have been adopted.
On February 6, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PRO Act. Click here for text of the bill and all actions so far.
Stop Looting American Pensions (SLAP) Act of 2019
Introduced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the SLAP Act (S. 2737) would increase the priority of workers during bankruptcy proceedings; mandate that companies must continue to make minimum funding contributions toward pension plans during bankruptcy proceedings; increase look back periods from two years to six years; prohibit sales of debtor’s assets within sixty days of filing bankruptcy and expand restrictions on executive pay during bankruptcy.
This is one critical part of what must be a larger reform of America’s bankruptcy laws. We have learned far too well what can happen to workers who, through no fault of their own, are caught in a bankruptcy proceeding. Click here for text of the bill.
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019
Introduced by Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), H.R. 4248 reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund through 2036. It is a critical piece of legislation for America’s coalfield communities. It will help to continue to provide good jobs in areas where they are currently hard to come by. It provides income to families who have been hard hit by the downturn in the coal market and it provides tax revenues to communities that have been devastated over the last eight years as coal employment has fallen by half.
The AML Fund is also a vital part of the funding that protects the healthcare and pensions for United Mine Workers of America’s retired miners, their dependents and widows. The interest earned by the AML Fund goes directly to the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds. This funding is a key part of maintaining the care these retirees earned in sweat and blood after decades of back breaking work in the nation’s coal mines. Click here for more information about this bill.
Enter your address below to lookup the law makers for your location.