National Press Club

West Virginia lawmakers seek to protect retired miners' benefits

September 7, 2016 | By Michelle Amber | michelleamber99@gmail.com

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

One day before some 10,000 retired coal miners and their supporters are expected to rally outside the U.S. Capitol, three West Virginia lawmakers called Wednesday for approval of legislation to protect the pensions and retiree health benefits of miners and their widows.

Addressing a Club Newsmaker, Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) joined Rep. David McKinley (R) in calling on Senate Republican leaders to move ahead with the legislation.

According to the lawmakers, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this summer that he would hold a vote by the end of September.

Caputo said that if there is no congressional action in the next three months “health care for 20,000 miners or their widows goes away” and the retirement benefits of 120,000 others could be at risk because of a shortfall in the United Mine Workers pension fund.

Manchin said the federal government pledged to guarantee lifetime benefits for miners in 1946 during the Truman Administration, and every Congress has honored that commitment.

The problem is acute because of coal company bankruptcies and a sharp reduction in the number of miners, lawmakers said.
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McKinley said that a union study two years ago found the pension plan will “collapse” within eight years. “This solvency situation needs to be resolved,” he said.