UMWA says it will lobby for CARE Act - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

UMWA says it will lobby for CARE Act

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The United Mine Workers of America says it will throw its lobbying weight behind legislation designed to designed to protect coal miners from losing their pensions and health care.

The legislation, backed by Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, as well as Rep. Nick Rahall, was introduced shortly after the UMWA made headlines over its "Fairness at Patriot" campaign. The union has been fighting alterations to collective bargaining agreements and a recent bankruptcy court decision gave Patriot authority to break those contracts.

"The CARE Act will help keep the promise made to our nation's coal miners by the federal government nearly 70 years ago, and supported by both Democrats and Republicans ever since," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "This is not about party, this is not about ideology, this is not even about coal. This is about doing what's right and following through on commitments made to hard-working Americans by their government."

The union says it "will converge on Capitol Hill June 24-26 to urge the passage of the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employees (CARE) Act (S.468/H.R. 980)."

The bill would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to transfer excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the UMWA 1984 Pension Plan – which now faces potential insolvency. CARE would also make a retiree who loses benefits following a bankruptcy eligible for a benefit plan established under the Coal Act and make employer contributions exempt from taxes, just as other pension plans are currently treated.

The 1974 pension plan covers 100,000 mine workers, including more than 35,000 in West Virginia. That plan is currently under funded due to "the recent financial crisis and fewer contributions to the plan."