Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act which would require the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within 7 days of enactment to protect our miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines. Additionally, the bill would forbid mine operators from retaliating against miners for reporting infection control problems to their employer or any public authority. Additional information on the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act can be found here.

“Our miners risk their lives every day to power our nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that risk is even greater for our brave miners. On April 17, my colleagues and I sent a letter to President Trump asking for MSHA to implement these safety standards, but they have yet to act to protect our miners,” said Senator Manchin. “I introduced the bipartisan COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act to ensure that our miners are protected from exposure to COVID-19 in the mines. This commonsense legislation will help our miners stay safe during this pandemic while they continue to provide Americans with the power they need every day and especially when so many Americans are spending extended amounts of time at home. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as MSHA and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to pass this legislation and protect our miners during this pandemic.”  

“Thousands of mineworkers in Illinois work in difficult and dangerous conditions, and the COVID-19 crisis only heightens the need for stronger worker protections for these miners,” said Senator Durbin. “With workers sharing tight quarters during long shifts, it’s vital that the Mine Safety & Health Administration issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to limit miners’ exposure to COVID-19 and ensure that miners can earn a living without further endangering themselves or their families.”

“Our nation’s coal miners work tirelessly – often in dangerous conditions – to power our communities. Now more than ever, we must help ensure they can stay safe on the job,” said Senator Kaine. 

“Ohio miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country,” said Senator Brown. “And now they’re facing more danger, as working conditions put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. MSHA needs to issue an enforceable safety standard to protect these miners from infectious disease, and we need to ensure these workers have the personal protective equipment they need to prevent exposure.”

“Some Americans can safely stay home and practice social distancing, but our Nation’s coal miners are bravely going to work every day to continue powering our country,” said Senator Casey. “The bipartisan COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would put in place enforceable workplace safety standards to protect miners from COVID-19 on the job and would make clear that miners cannot be retaliated against for reporting health and safety concerns related to COVID-19.”

“West Virginia miners continue to work day in and day out to power our country,” Senator Capito said. “Making sure they are protected and as safe as possible in their job is absolutely critical, especially during COVID-19.”

“As our coal miners continue to do their job to keep the lights on in our communities amid this health crisis, we’ve got to make sure that they have the support they need to stay safe in this pandemic. On the job, miners often have to work in close quarters with their colleagues, which puts them at greater risk of exposure to COVD-19. That’s why we must make sure their health and safety is being prioritized, and adequate protections are put in place to protect these essential workers while on the clock,” said Senator Warner.

“An underground environment is unlike any other workplace there is,” United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “It can easily become a hot spot for COVID-19. Miners breathe the same circulated air no matter where they are in the mine. They frequently must work in close quarters. They ride to and from their specific work stations underground in elevators and mantrips that put them in close proximity to one another. They change into and out of their work clothes side by side before and after their shifts. We have asked MSHA to develop emergency standards to protect miners, but so far the agency has taken no action. We very much appreciate this bipartisan group of Senators for stepping up to support the more than 200,000 miners of all kinds in this nation. They need consistent, enforceable protection on the job just like every other essential worker.”

The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would require MSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, based on CDC, NIOSH, and OSHA guidance, within 7 days of enactment to protect our miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines. The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would also:

  • Require mine operators to provide personal protective equipment to miners;
  • Require MSHA to issue a permanent comprehensive infectious disease standard within two years;
  • Require MSHA to forbid employers from retaliating against miners for reporting infection control problems to their employer, or to local, State, or Federal government agencies; and,
  • Require MSHA, in coordination with CDC and NIOSH, to track, analyze, and investigate mine-related COVID-19 infections data in order make recommendations and guidance to protect miners from the virus.

Bill text can be found here

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Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and seven Senators called for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to implement emergency standards to protect America’s brave coal miners who continue to power our nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Coal miners are the backbone of this country; they have always risked their lives to provide the power that keeps our lights on and the energy flowing to our homes and businesses. When it comes to the coal industry, the health and safety of our miners must continue to be our top priority. Again, we strongly urge MSHA to immediately issue the emergency standards necessary to protect our nation's miners as we work toward finding solutions to the current public health crisis,” the Senators said in part.

Senator Manchin is joined by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

 

The letter can be read in full below or click here.

 

Dear President Trump: 

We write to echo the request of America’s coal miners by urging the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the federal government's principal agency directed to prevent mine illness, injury, and death, to exercise its authority to issue emergency standards to safeguard miners as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As you are well aware, coal miners are especially prone to the dangers of COVID-19 because of the nature of their work. Unlike other professions where social distancing recommendations are practicable, coal mining requires the continuous clustering of people working in close proximity of one another. Clustering usually begins in the locker rooms where miners prepare for the day's shift by putting on their protective gear. It continues when the miners climb into their mantrips, mine cars, and elevators where they are carried to the extraction sites. While there, the miners will breathe the same air, utilize the same machinery, tools, and instrumentalities to move the coal out of the mine and into the stream of commerce. Once their shifts conclude, the miners will return to the locker rooms, utilize showering facilities, and exchange orders with the next shift before heading home to their families. This process repeats itself between every shift, and at every mine, exponentially increasing the probability of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. 

We understand that individual mine operators and local unions have implemented their own measures in an attempt to mitigate the risks of exposure to this highly contagious virus. However, we believe that a uniform implementation of practices detailed within an MSHA emergency standard would ensure that the highest level of precautionary measures were in place at every mine. 

Coal miners are the backbone of this country; they have always risked their lives to provide the power that keeps our lights on and the energy flowing to our homes and businesses. When it comes to the coal industry, the health and safety of our miners must continue to be our top priority. 

Again, we strongly urge MSHA to immediately issue the emergency standards necessary to protect our nation's miners as we work toward finding solutions to the current public health crisis. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) received an award from the United Mine Workers of America recognizing his successful years-long effort to save the pension and healthcare benefits for thousands of retired coal miners and their families. A group of Southwest Virginia miners presented Sen. Warner with the coal-shaped award, celebrating the passage of Sen. Warner’s Bipartisan American Miners Act, which the President signed into law in December.

“With President Trump’s signature, the Bipartisan American Miners Act is now the law of the land, protecting healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Southwest Virginia miners,” said Sen. Warner. “This award represents years of bipartisan work in Washington and the tireless efforts of the UMWA miners who advocated to protect the benefits they earned. I’m proud to have played a role in passing this legislation that officially honors America’s commitment our miners.”

The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 was introduced by Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and a bipartisan group of Senators from mining states. It shores up the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan – which was headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis – and ensures that at-risk miners do not lose their healthcare due to the 2018 and 2019 coal company bankruptcies. The legislation amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. It also amends the Coal Act to include 2018 and 2019 bankruptcies in the miners’ healthcare fix that passed in 2017. These actions will secure the pensions of 92,000 coal miners and protect healthcare benefits for 13,000 miners.

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate for Virginia’s coal miners and their families. In 2017, Sen. Warner passed legislation securing healthcare benefits for more than 22,000 miners. In August 2018, he introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, members of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statements on President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021(FY21) budget: 

“Simply put, the President’s budget fails Virginia. With the deficit at record highs thanks to the President’s massive tax cuts for big business and the wealthiest Americans, this proposal attempts to balance the budget at the expense of hardworking Virginians and investments in our local economy. It completely eliminates funding for the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay – an ecological treasure and important economic engine that supports thousands of jobs. It repays our federal workers for their years of service with deep cuts to their retirement benefits. And instead of investing in our coal communities, the Trump budget would eliminate the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation program that helps communities in Southwest Virginia invest in clean-up and economic revitalization efforts,” said Warner.

“This budget is yet another alarming example of the President’s attempts to leave the most vulnerable Americans behind. It slashes Medicaid, which 1.2 million Virginians rely on for their health care. It cuts food stamp benefits, which keep 695,000 Virginians from going hungry. And it guts other critical programs like community development block grants and home heating assistance. As we have done successfully in years past, we are going to fight on the Budget Committee to reject these harmful cuts and pass a budget that better reflects the needs of all Virginians,” said Kaine.

Below is a list of some of the impacts President Trump’s budget would have on Virginians:

Medicaid: The budget proposes cutting Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. The budget would give states the ability to pursue damaging work requirements, more stringent eligibility criteria, increased co-payments, and more. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The budget would restrict access to SNAP, a safety net to prevent the most vulnerable Americans—particularly seniors and children—from going hungry.

Chesapeake Bay: The budget proposes to decimate the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. These cuts would threaten key federal assistance that helps localities, farmers, and others take steps to reduce the pollution flowing into the Bay.

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The budget proposes $38 billion for NIH, a nearly $4 billion cut from FY20. Millions of Americans rely on NIH research to inform our understanding and development of new and innovative treatments for serious illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

After School Programs: The budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding for afterschool programs, which would affect 20,504 children in Virginia.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): The budget would eliminate the PSLF program, denying Virginia’s hardworking public servants—such as teachers, nurses, and first responders, and other public service professionals—the loan forgiveness they earned.

Airports: The budget would eliminate Airport Improvement Program Discretionary grants. In FY19, these grants provided more than $64.8 million for airport improvements across the Commonwealth at both large and small airports.

Port of Virginia: The budget would eliminate the Port Infrastructure Development program. Previously funded at $225 million, funds from this program support critical infrastructure improvements at the Port of Virginia.

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields: The budget would eliminate the Heritage Partnership Program, funding to support the maintenance of Shenandoah Valley Battlefields.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): The budget proposes to eliminate LIHEAP, which was previously funded at $8.7 billion. This vital safety net program helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills in localities across the Commonwealth.

Abandoned Mines: The budget would eliminate Abandoned Mine Land Grants, which provided $115 million in discretionary funds last year to help places like Southwest Virginia reclaim and repurpose abandoned coal lands.

Virginia Tribes: The budget would reduce housing block grants to tribes by more than one quarter. Virginia tribes rely on these funds to develop low-income housing.

Affordable Housing: The budget would eliminate the Choice Neighborhoods, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and HOME Investment Partnerships programs—programs that support the building and rehabilitation of affordable housing. In 2019, Virginia cities and counties received $57 million in CDBG grants and $25 million in HOME grants. In 2018, Newport News and Norfolk received $60 million in Choice Neighborhoods grants to build affordable housing in the Marshall-Ridley neighborhood and St. Paul’s area, respectively.

Economic Development Administration (EDA): The budget would eliminate the EDA. Virginia was awarded 12 EDA grants for $4 million in 2018, including funding to help the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) build an apprenticeship academy and prepare young Virginians for jobs in a growing industry. 

Federal Employees: The budget would make federal employees’ health and retirement benefits more expensive for workers. 

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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced S. 3172, the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act of 2020 which would extend the black lung excise tax through December 31, 2030 to ensure that coal miners suffering from the disease have access to the medical care that they desperately need. Without the revenue from this tax, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is at risk of future insolvency at a time when the nationwide prevalence of black lung is increasing.

“Every day our coal miners risk their lives to provide America with the energy we need to be the most powerful nation in the world and as a result, many of these brave miners have Black Lung Disease. Now, it’s our turn to support them and ensure that they receive the treatment and medical care they need. That is why I am proud to introduce the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act of 2020 with my fellow colleagues to extend the black lung excise tax and secure the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for our coal miners across America who have given so much. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation and send it to the President’s desk,” said Senator Manchin.

“Alabama has nearly 3,000 coal miners, and we need to make sure that they are able to receive the care they need if they develop Black Lung disease. This bill is an important step towards making sure they have the resources they need in order to receive treatment for this disease,” said Senator Jones.

“Last year, we were proud to help secure miners’ health care and pension benefits in the annual government spending bill. This bill also extended funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund through December 2020, providing some temporary relief for coal miners. However, as these miners and their families know, a one-year extension is not enough,” said Senator Warner. “Our coal miners have sacrificed so much in order to fuel our nation and they deserve to know that this critical funding won’t run out at the end of the year. Our legislation would further extend this funding through 2030 and provide peace of mind for miners who rely on the fund to get the care they need.”

“Miners put everything on the line to help power this nation each and every day. This disability trust fund is an effort to support their tireless work and help ensure those suffering from black lung can get much needed treatment,” Senator Kaine said.

“Ohio miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country,” said Senator Brown. “Congress must now do its part and extend the black lung tax, so we can ensure these minors have access to the care and resources needed to prevent and treat black lung disease.”

Coal miners have done some of most difficult work there is to power our country. The Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act of 2020 would ensure the continuity of the trust fund, especially given the resurgence of Black Lung Disease, so the fund can continue to provide miners with Black Lung Disease the health and disability benefits they need,” said Senator Bob Casey.  “I will keep fighting to make sure that Congress keeps its promise to take care of our miners.”

 

Background on the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund:

  • The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is financed primarily by an excise tax on coal produced and sold domestically. This tax was first established in 1978 at $0.50 per ton on underground-mined coal, and $0.25 per ton on surface-mined coal. The funding was later raised to $1.10 per ton for underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton for surface-mined coal.
  • Due to congressional inaction, on December 31, 2018, the tax rate reverted back to $0.50 per ton on underground-mined coal and $0.25 per ton on surface-mined coal, representing a 55% reduction.
  • In December of 2019, Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law, an end-of-year spending package that included a one-year extension of the 2018 tax rates. These rates are set to expire on December 31, 2020.

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WASHINGTON – Following years of efforts to try to safeguard benefits for mine workers, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), today introduced bipartisan legislation along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to secure pensions for our nation’s retired miners. The legislation would shore up the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan – which is currently headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis – ensuring that at-risk miners do not lose their healthcare due to the 2018 and 2019 coal company bankruptcies.

“After working for so long to get miners the benefits they deserve, this bipartisan legislation is an encouraging step in the right direction,” said the Senators. “Our mine workers have worked extremely hard to power our nation, often at great risk to themselves. The least we can do is make sure they are able to get their hard-earned benefits and pensions, and that once they retire, they can do so with peace of mind. We are proud to introduce this legislation along with our colleagues to help us keep our nation’s promise to miners in the Commonwealth and all across the country.”

The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 will amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. It will also amend the Coal Act to include 2018 and 2019 bankruptcies in the miners’ healthcare fix that passed in 2017. These actions will secure the pensions of 92,000 coal miners and protect healthcare benefits for 13,000 miners.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners.

The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 is also co-sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

A copy of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA) wrote to House and Senate leadership advocating for the inclusion of a permanent fix for miners’ health care and pensions in the short-term spending package that is currently being negotiated to keep the government open after September 30th, 2019.

“In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table,” wrote the Senators.

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the American Miners Act of 2019 to shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 retirees who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act. Additionally, the legislation would protect the 500 Virginians affected by the Westmoreland bankruptcy that has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents.

In their letter, the Senators also request that congressional leadership extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung disease. 

“We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment,” continued the Senators.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continued to advocate on behalf of Virginia’s coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. The Senators also introduced legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

As negotiations continue around a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on October 1st, 2019, we urge you to honor the promises made to America’s coal miners and include permanent protections for the retiree health care and pension benefits they earned through a lifetime of hard work as well as an extension of the coal excise tax contribution rate that expired at the end of last year, threatening the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table. After all they have done for our country, the least we could do is keep our end of the bargain, honor the commitments that were made, and show them that we are thankful for the sacrifices they have made for our country.

In 1946, President Harry Truman ordered Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug to broker a deal to end a nationwide strike of coal miners. The subsequent agreement with the United Mine Workers of America guaranteed healthcare and pension benefits for coal miners with the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Unfortunately, due to numerous coal company bankruptcies and fundamentally flawed bankruptcy laws that allow corporations to shed their responsibilities to their workers, these very same federally guaranteed benefits are in jeopardy today.

We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment. 

We commend Speaker Pelosi and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for advancing legislation to secure health care and pension benefits for our nation’s miners. On July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019 (H.R. 397) with bipartisan support. Congress must act to ensure millions of Americans in multiemployer pension plans do not see cuts to the pension benefits they have worked hard to earn. We must pass legislation to comprehensively address both the insolvency of troubled plans and of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Also on July 24th, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on H.R. 934 and H.R. 935, bills that would permanently secure miners health care and pension benefits. The full committee is poised to vote on those bipartisan proposals this month.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the U.S. Senate has not taken up any relevant legislation either in committee or on the floor all year. Because this is literally a life and death issue for thousands of families across this country, we urge you to include a permanent solution for miners healthcare and pension benefits in the short-term funding package that will ensure the continued operation of the U.S. government beyond September 30th, 2019, and we stand ready to work together in a bipartisan way to keep our promises to these great American families.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following recent studies showing worsening prevalence and severity of black lung disease among coal miners and deteriorating financial viability of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine met today with 25 coal miners and their families from Southwest Virginia. They discussed the need for fast action in funding the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal companies responsible for paying benefits are bankrupt, closed, or otherwise not able to pay. The miners who met with Warner and Kaine today are from Big Stone Gap, Clintwood, Norton, Wise, Coeburn, Duffield, St. Paul, Haysi, Moneta, Oakwood, Gate City, and Pilgrims Knob. 

View photos of the meetings here. Video of Sen. Warner’s meeting is here

Black lung has led to devastating health consequences for too many hardworking miners and we need to help ensure those who are suffering from this disease can get much needed treatment. Hearing directly from Virginia miners today about the obstacles they face in accessing health care re-energized us to do everything we can to tackle these challenges. Coal miners have worked tirelessly to help power this nation and we owe it to them to act,” said the Senators.

The Senators also announced that they will join Senator Bob Casey to introduce the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.

Later in the day, Kaine participated in a roundtable discussion led by Senator Casey with Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a medical expert, and affected miners and family members in front of over one hundred miners affected by black lung disease – including the 25 Virginians. Watch Kaine’s remarks at the roundtable here

Senators Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. Last week, following the announcement that 1,200 retired coal miners – including up to 800 Virginians – are at risk of losing their health care by the end of the year, Warner and Kaine pushed for passage of the American Miners Act of 2019. The legislation, sponsored by Warner and Kaine, would secure pensions and health care benefits for retired coal miners – including hundreds of Virginians. It would also extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with miners from the United Mine Workers of America at his office in Washington, D.C.

In the meeting, Sen. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act, legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families. The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co, which previously operated in Wise County, VA.

“Southwest Virginia’s retired miners worked hard their entire careers to power this country, and the least we can do is make sure they’re able to retire with the pensions and benefits they earned,” said Sen. Warner. “Frankly, this is a crisis for the 500 Virginians who stand to lose their benefits in the near future. The American Miners Act would protect the hard-earned benefits these families and thousands more across the Commonwealth count on, while also taking needed action to address the black lung outbreak facing coal country.” 

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. The American Miners Act of 2019 will shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees who have vested won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act. 

In May 2017, Sen. Warner worked with several colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to protect healthcare for retired miners – including more than 10,000 miners and their families in Virginia – who were orphaned by coal bankruptcies. But the recent Westmoreland bankruptcy has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents – including 500 people in Virginia. This legislation will extend the fix to ensure that miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare. 

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal company responsible for paying benefits is bankrupt, closed or otherwise not able to pay. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund. The fund, which due to a variety of factors is currently more than $4 billion in debt, is supported by an excise tax that was cut in half at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 will extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

Sen. Warner is a strong advocate for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, he introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. 

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA). For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.

  

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WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged his Senate colleagues to support bipartisan legislation that would provide back pay to low- and middle-income federal contractors who otherwise will never see the 35 days’ worth of wages they missed during the partial government shutdown. 

In his remarks, Sen. Warner recalled various conversations he had with furloughed contractors and federal workers during the shutdown and highlighted the lingering consequences that continue to affect federal families. He also cited a recent survey that found that as a result of the shutdown, 62 percent of federal workers depleted all or most of their savings, 42 percent were forced to take on new debt and 25 percent tapped into their retirement savings. 

Additionally, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of ensuring that the government stays open and called on Congress to override the President Trump’s veto if the President decides to once again shut down the government.

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced the American Miners Act of 2019, legislation that would secure pensions and healthcare benefits for our nation’s retired coal miners – including 500 Virginians affected by the recent bankruptcy of a Colorado-based mining company. 

“Congress made a promise in 1946 to protect coal miners after a lifetime of arduous and dangerous work to help power this nation,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation would ensure that we fulfill that promise by protecting retired coal miners across the country, including in Virginia, where roughly 500 miners and their dependents are at risk of losing their healthcare following the bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Company. This bill will also protect miners’ hard-earned pensions, and makes important changes I’ve been pushing for to defend and strengthen the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides healthcare and benefits for thousands of retirees suffering from this deadly disease.” 

“Virginia’s miners earned their pensions and health care benefits after years of difficult and dangerous work to provide us energy,” said Sen. Kaine. “I hope that Congress will quickly act on this legislation and give miners peace of mind.”

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. TheAmerican Miners Act of 2019 will shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees who have vested won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act.

The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginians. In May 2017, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured passage of bipartisan legislation to protect healthcare for retired miners – including more than 10,000 miners and their families in Virginia – who were orphaned by coal bankruptcies. But the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents – including 500 people in Virginia. Today’s legislation will extend the fix to ensure that miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare.

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal company responsible for paying benefits is bankrupt, closed or otherwise not able to pay. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund. The fund, which due to a variety of factors is currently more than $4 billion in debt, is supported by an excise tax that automatically expired at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 will extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners.

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA). For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.

  

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