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 American Miners Act, S. 27
Senate Bill 27, sponsored by Sen Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) addresses three critical issues that confront retired coal miners and their families:
- Preserving pensions for UMWA 1974 Plan beneficiaries
- Maintaining health care coverage for retirees of coal companies that went bankrupt in 2018
- Restoring the needed levels of coal company contributions to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund
Protecting 1974 Pension Plan Beneficiaries
The UMWA 1974 Pension Fund is projected to become insolvent in the 2022-2023 timeframe. However, there is only one major employer contributing to the Fund and should that employer be forced to declare bankruptcy the Fund will collapse shortly thereafter. 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 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 20,000 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. S. 27 includes language that will preserve their health care.
Restoring critical contributions to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund
The would extend for ten years the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund contributions paid by coal companies to $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal (up to 4.4% of the sales price). This tax is critical for supporting the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides healthcare and benefits to more than 25,000 miners and their dependents.
The American Miners Act was introduced on January 3, 2019. See a list of Senate co-sponsors here.
The Miners Pension Protection Act of 2019, HR 935 and S. 671
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. 27.
HR 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.
Senate Bill 671, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), is the companion bill to HR 935. See a list of co-sponsors here.
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. 27.
HR 934 was introduced on January 31, 2019. See a list of House co-sponsors here. This bill also receiving a hearing in the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee on July 24.
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