Press Releases

Senate Finance Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill to Protect the Pensions & Health Benefits of Retired Miners & their Families

‘Miners Protection Act’ will shore up the 1974 UMWA pension plan, which is in danger of running out of money

Sep 21 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the Senate Finance Committee for passing the Miners Protection Act this morning by a vote of 18-8. Sen. Warner, who is a member of the Committee, is an original co-sponsor and a top backer of the legislation, which will protect the health and pension benefits of an estimated 120,000 retired miners across the country, including 10,000 retirees in Virginia.

“Coal companies and the government made a promise to these miners many years ago that we would take care of them and their families after a lifetime of difficult, dangerous work. The Senate Finance Committee has done the right thing by passing this legislation with bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “I will continue working with my colleagues from West Virginia and Ohio to push the full Senate to swiftly take up and pass this legislation into law in order to protect miners’ hard-earned pension and health benefits.”

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 take leftover funds from a federal government program that cleans up abandoned mines to shore up the underfunded health insurance and pension plan. Without the legislation, thousands of retired coal miners – including nearly 20,000 retirees whose companies filed for bankruptcy last year alone – face the prospect of significant cuts to their pensions and health care.