October 16, 2019

Manchin, Senators Stand With Miners & Retirees As They Demand Action To Protect Pensions And Healthcare

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today joined United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and AFL-CIO workers and retirees from across the country to demand Senate action to protect the pensions and healthcare that workers have earned.

The pension crisis threatens the retirement of up to 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide and could put small businesses across the country in jeopardy. These coal miners, truck drivers, carpenters, bakers and others worked hard all their lives and gave up raises at the bargaining table in order to put that money toward retirement for themselves and their families. Now that retirement is at risk. If Congress fails to take action, by the end of this year, 1,200 coal miners, their widows, and family members could also lose their healthcare coverage. Democrats today rallied with workers and retirees to demand Senate action from Leader McConnell. 

“The Miners’ Pension Fund alone, a critical plan which covers 82,000 retired miners – 25,000 in West Virginia - and 20,000 full vested current workers, is projected to become insolvent by 2022. If one major coal company goes bankrupt soon, the timeline for pension fund insolvency is significantly sooner. By September 2020 coal miners could see drastic cuts to their benefits if we don’t do something now. If the Miners’ Pension Fund becomes insolvent, a snowball effect will happen, with other pension plans following suit. It has been 285 days since I introduced the American Miners Act, which would protect miners’ pensions from becoming collateral during coal mine bankruptcies. We must act now. That’s why I’m joining my colleagues today – to call for the passage of my legislation that will ensure our miners and retirees can retire and live peacefully without the constant worry of losing their hard-earned pensions,” said Senator Manchin.  

“I worked in a coal mine for more than 30 years, always giving up wages at the bargaining table so that it could go into my pension and retiree healthcare,” said retired West Virginian coal miner Rick Ryan. “When you work in a coal mine for so many years, your body gets beat up. We know we will need benefits in retirement. Congress saved my healthcare in 2017, and I am very grateful for that. But the job isn’t finished. Our pension plan is on the edge of insolvency, and we need action now.”

Numerous pension plans, including the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, are currently on the brink of failure. Several other plans have already had to cut benefits. If nothing is done to the plans, they will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.

If the plans are allowed to fail, not only will they no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers and small businesses would be at risk of having to pay billions because the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) would be on the hook for billions of dollars it cannot pay. PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans.

There are several causes for this crisis, including the fact that the economic collapse of 2008 devastated these plans and the people who depend on them. These retirees and workers who have done everything right did not cause this crisis, and Congress must not turn its back on them.

Read more about the crisis and need for a solution here.

View Senator Manchin’s press conference remarks here.