March 01, 2016

Manchin Introduces UMWA President to Testify Before Senate Finance Committee

Manchin introduced Mr. Cecil Roberts to the Senate Finance Committee to testify to the importance of the Miners Protection Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced Mr. Cecil Roberts, the President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), to the Senate Finance Committee today. He testified to the importance of the Miners Protection Act, legislation to ensure the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies.

“Mr. Roberts is one of the most committed individuals working for the welfare of miners in the history of the industry,” Senator Manchin said. “Today Mr. Roberts spoke to the importance of the Miners Protection Act and provided important insights into the history of promises that the U.S. government and coal operators have made to the miners of this country. This commonsense legislation simply seeks to honor that obligation and protect the pension and health benefits of retired miners and their dependents that was promised to them.” 

To watch Senator Manchin introduce Mr. Roberts, please click here.

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 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.