May 13, 2018

Bipartisan solution needed for saving miners' pensions | Huntington Herald Dispatch

Last week marked the one year anniversary of passage of a permanent fix for miners' healthcare that prevented 22,600 coal miners in West Virginia from losing their healthcare. Now, as a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multi-employer Pension Plans, I am determined to find a permanent solution for their pensions.

Over 70 years ago, President Harry Truman recognized the importance of the coal that our miners produced for this country and promised that the government would guarantee our brave coal miners' benefits in return for their service. In turn, our coal miners propelled the American economy, ushered in decades of economic growth, started an energy boom that made the U.S. a superpower, and helped our nation to victory in two World Wars. This agreement was a sacred promise between worker and country, and it captured the very best of America.

I worked with President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence to pass a permanent fix for miners' healthcare, stressing how it important it was that we find a permanent solution to make sure that our retired miners and their widows' did not lose their healthcare benefits. But we had no better advocates for securing a permanent healthcare fix than the retired miners themselves who took the time and the energy to come to Washington, D.C., to show my colleagues the real toll that years of work in the mines have had on them. For years they have walked the halls of Congress, met with representatives and staff, worked the phones and wrote letters urging us to keep the promise that was made to them.

Now, I stand by them leading the fight to make sure retired coal miners pensions won't be taken away, too. This week, I released a report detailing the pending crisis facing many multi-employer pension plans including the United Mine Workers of America 1974 Pension fund.

Throughout this process, I have talked with thousands of West Virginians who would be devastated if they lost their pensions and received letters from miners and their families about the fear and anxiety that comes with not knowing whether they will be able to pay their mortgage or put food on the table.

Judy from Sharples is worried about losing her late husband's pension. She said

"I'm not a rich person but if I lose my late husband's pension I'll lose everything I have. My husband worked 30 plus years at the mines with the promise we would be taken care of. I have always tried to live within my means but if I lose my pension, me and my grandson who I'm raising will not be able to make it."

Carl from Logan is worried he won't be able to take care of his family if he loses his pension. He said, "I have given over 35 years of my life to working in the coal mines. This pension is what keeps food on my table for my family and they depend on me to take care of them. Without this monthly pension, I could not take care of my family as I am doing now."

After securing healthcare benefits for retired miners, we proved that Congress can work together and put partisan politics aside. It's a philosophy that I have followed throughout my life in public service. West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working people in America, and they have dedicated their lives to powering this nation and keeping it the strongest in the world. As a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multi-employer Pension Plans, I am fighting for a solution.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin