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Legislative Updates

Senate Finance Committee approves mine workers bill

On Sept. 21, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the Miners Protection Act (S. 1714), which was introduced in July of 2015 by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). The bill calls for ensuring that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pension and health benefits to more than 22,000 retired mine workers and their families, who otherwise would lose their health insurance and face reduced retirement benefits before the end of the year as a result of the Great Recession and coal company bankruptcies.

“Even though it is long overdue, the Miners Protection Act passage through the Senate Finance Committee brings us one step closer to fulfilling the commitment that we made to our miners more than 70 years ago,” Manchin said. “We have just returned from the longest congressional recess in history and my colleagues are already running for the door with unfinished business.”

Specifically, the bill calls for protecting retired mine workers by:

  • amending the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency; and
  • making certain retirees who lose health care benefits following the bankruptcy or insolvency of their employer eligible for the 1993 Benefit Plan. The assets of the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) created following the Patriot Coal bankruptcy would be transferred to the 1993 Benefit Plan to reduce transfers from the AML fund.

Letter carriers recently joined the United Mine Workers Association (UMWA) on the front stops of the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress uphold its promise to provide to provide mine workers with a secure retirement.

“Mine workers spent their lives working underground in one of the most dangerous occupations,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “Our brothers and sisters in the UMWA helped produce the energy that has fueled our post-war prosperity, and we stand with them in solidarity.”

Congress has until Dec. 31 to pass legislation this legislation and prevent the UMWA health and Retirement Fund from collapsing.

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