May 31, 2016

Warner & Kaine Join Colleagues In Calling For Action On Miners’ Pensions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined 27 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterating their call for action on the Miners’ Protection Act before Congress’ summer recess. Warner and Kaine are original cosponsors of the Miner’s Protection Act and with nearly 10,000 retirees, Virginia has the fifth largest population of coal miner beneficiaries in the nation.

“Seventy years ago this month, President Harry Truman brokered the historic Krug-Lewis agreement that guaranteed health and pension benefits for coal miners who put their lives at risk every day to meet our country’s energy needs,” the Senators wrote. “Today, we are on the verge of breaking that promise to over 100,000 miners and their beneficiaries, and the impact will be felt in every state of the union.”

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. The Miners Protection Act would use leftover funds from a federal program that cleans up abandoned mines to boost the underfunded health insurance and pension plan.

The Senators urged the Majority Leader and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch to swiftly schedule a committee markup and allow a floor vote on this bill to address the potential loss of coal miners’ health and pension benefits.  

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

You can read the full letter here.