June 29, 2016

Manchin Secures Promise of a Vote on Miners Protection Act

Manchin secures promise of a vote on Miner’s Protection Act from Democratic Leadership and Finance Chair Orrin Hatch

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today personally secured a promise of a vote on the Miners Protection Act from Democratic Senate leadership and Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

“I am glad we will be able to vote on the Miners Protection Act and I thank the entire Democratic Caucus for working to secure an immediate vote from Finance Chair, Orrin Hatch,” Senator Manchin said. “The guarantee that these miners received from President Truman deserves a vote before recess. By the end of this year, tens of thousands of miners will lose their health benefits - the health benefits they earned through a lifetime of hard work. Although I am happy we have secured a vote, we now must work to make this vital legislation law to make sure that our miners never receive those notices.”

On May 25th, Senator Manchin and 28 of colleagues sent a letter to Leader McConnell calling for action on the Miners Protection Act before the long, summer recess. He will continue to push for a markup before the Senate goes to recess on July 16th because 3 months it too long to wait to help our miners.

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 was created by Wall Street greed and 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.

To read Senator Manchin’s letter sent to Leader McConnell, click here.