Press Releases

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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