The Miners Protection Act would ensure that more than 100,000 retired coal miners and their families receive the healthcare and pension payments promised to them for many years of hard work in the mines. Supporting the livelihoods of thousands of senior citizens, widows, and retirees—many of whom are low-income—is an important piece of building a bright future in our communities.
The fund that delivers these crucial payments has plunged dangerously close to insolvency, due to the Great Recession and decreased employer contributions as the coal industry has declined. The Miners Protection Act (S. 175 in the Senate; H.R. 179 in the House) would secure the long-term solvency of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan and would ensure that the 11,000 retirees who lost benefits due to the recent bankruptcy of Patriot Coal receive the packages they earned.
The payments have a significant impact on local, rural economies as these dollars are spent and their effect multiples. The combined annual payments of all UMWA funds (not just the 1974 Pension Plan) contributes more than $1.1 billion to state and local economies throughout the country.
"There are literally thousands of retirees and widows throughout America's coal-producing regions for whom this legislation is a matter of life or death," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "Through no fault of their own, they are in critical danger of losing health care benefits they earned though a lifetime of dangerous, backbreaking work. This legislation would preserve those benefits, and ensure that they have the dignified retirement they deserve..."
The Miners Protection Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators in 2015, led by Senator Joe Manchin in the Senate and Congressman David McKinley in the House. It was also included in the POWER+ Plan proposed in February 2015 by the White House.
The bill was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee in September 2016 with a bipartisan vote, but was not passed in the 114th Congress that adjourned in December 2016. A provision was included in the Dec. 2016 Continuing Resolution that provides temporary (4-month) funding for the healthcare portion of the Miners Protection Act. A separate bill (S. 176) was also introduced that would fund only the healthcare portion—and not the pensions—of the Miners Protection Act. The bill was reintroduced in the House and Senate in January 2017. The UMWA, the bill's congressional sponsors, and other supporters continue to push for passage of the full bill in 2017.