December 02, 2016

Manchin Calling on West Virginia Coal Miners to Share their Story

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is calling on West Virginia coal miners and their families to send him their stories so he can read them on the Senate Floor, explaining the hardships they will face if we do not immediately pass the Miners Protection Act now.  Miners can send their stories to

“In October, 12,500 of our nation’s coal miners, including 5,654 West Virginians, received notices informing them that their healthcare benefits will be terminated by the end of this year, but they have just over a week to purchase new plans and try to figure out how to pay for them” Senator Manchin said. “On February 1, another 3,600 miners will lose their health care and 6,500 more will follow throughout the rest of the year, suffering the same demoralizing and devastating fate. I will do everything in my power to pass the Miners Protection Act, and that's why I need the more than 27,000 retirees and their families who live in West Virginia to send me their stories about how Congress’s failure to pass the Miners Protection Act will affect them. I will read them on the Senate Floor so all of my colleagues know what they are about to put the people who built our country through.”

Since introducing the Miners Protection Act, Senator Manchin has followed regular order to pass this important piece of legislation. It has had a legislative hearing and passed out of the Senate Finance Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 to 8.  The bill is paid for and has the 60 votes needed for passage.

Retired miners are facing uncertainty because the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan is severely underfunded. Unlike other public and private pension plans, the 1974 Pension Plan was well-managed and funded prior to the 2008 financial crisis, which hit at a time when this Plan had its highest payment obligations. This – coupled with the fact that 60% of the beneficiaries are “orphan” retirees whose employers are no longer in the coal business, and the fact that there are only 10,000 active workers for 120,000 retirees – has placed the Plan on the road to insolvency. If the Plan becomes insolvent, these beneficiaries face benefit cuts and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will assume billions of dollars in liabilities.

To address these issues, the Miners Protection Act would:

  • Amend 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.
  • Make certain retirees who lose health care benefits following the bankruptcy or insolvency of his or her 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.