Wednesday, June 15, 2016

3,500 retired coal miners and family members rally in Ky. for federal support of health, pension funds

Retired miners, spouses, children in Lexington. (Herald-Leader)
Bankruptcy filings by coal companies have many retired miners concerned about the future of their health and pension benefits. In Kentucky—where coal jobs dropped to 6,900 as of April 1, the lowest total since 1898—thousands of retired miners on Tuesday rallied to call on Congress to protect their benefits, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, told the gathering of more than 3,500 members that union miners spent their careers working in dangerous places to provide America’s electricity and steel and make it the most prosperous nation on Earth." Roberts told the crowd, "We have stood up for America, and it’s time America stood up for us." (Herald-Leader photo)

UMWA said that "22,000 retired union miners, widows or dependents—including about 3,200 in Kentucky— would lose health care benefits at the end of the year if federal legislation they are backing isn’t enacted this year," reports the Herald-Leader. "Benefits are at risk because the miners worked for companies, including Patriot Coal and Arch Coal, that declared bankruptcy in recent years. Monthly pension checks also could be cut."

"The bankruptcies and a depressed U.S. coal market have decreased contributions to the pension fund by two-thirds from last year’s levels, according to the union," reports the Herald-Leader. "The union is reeling, especially in Kentucky, which no longer has any mines that employ UMWA members. Currently about 89,000 union members or widows are receiving a pension, according to the union. Almost 10,000 retirees in Kentucky could see pension cuts without Congressional action, according to the UMWA," which is running TV commercials in Kentucky and West Virginia, and perhaps elsewhere, to put pressure on congressional Republicans.  The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Kentucky senator "remains committed to helping ensure the retirement security of our nation's retirees, including coal miners."

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