CARE Act introduced

A BILL designed to protect coal miners from losing their pensions and health care was introduced in the House and Senate by West Virginian Senator Jay Rockefeller and Congressman Nick Rahall today.

Staff Reporter

The legislation, called the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act, would transfer money from the abandoned mine land fund to the United Mine Workers of America 1974 pension plan.

The union plan, which covers more than 100,000 mineworkers including more than 35,000 West Virginians, is said to be severely underfunded due to a reduction in contributions.

The bill would also transfer some retiree obligations to the 1992 benefit plan and would guarantee that the full value of employer cash contributions would go to the retirees.

Senator Joe Manchin co-sponsored the bill.

“A strong mining industry begins with a strong commitment to our miners,” Manchin said.

“Our coal miners are some of the hardest working people in America and they are proud to do the heavy lifting that keeps this country strong.

“They are the backbone behinds decades of lighting our cities and heating our homes and deserve nothing less than the best possible benefits and care.

“This bill makes sure our brave coal miners receive the benefits they’ve been promised.”

The announcement comes amid union protests against Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal for allegedly reneging on health care benefits for more than 12,000 retirees and dependents.

Patriot Coal is currently in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and has proposed the establishment of a trust which will provide workers with no more than $US40 million annually up to a limit of $200 million.

The total will not meet the needs of impacted workers, as documents reflect retiree benefits in 2012 amounted to $71 million – which is projected to rise to an annual total of about $73.8 million.

Peabody Energy spun off Patriot in 2007 and Arch Coal spun off Magnum Coal shortly after.

The UMWA has taken the two producers to task, claiming the spin-off companies were created in part to shun their responsibilities to former workers.

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