×

McKinley miner pension bill heads to House floor

CHARLESTON — U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., hopes his version of a fix for coal miner pensions passes the House of Representatives and breaks through the blockage in the U.S. Senate.

House Resolution 935, the Miners Pension Protection Act, passed the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday. The bill would provide funding to shore up miner pension funds affected by company bankruptcies and other catastrophes.

“The window for addressing the looming insolvency of miners pensions is closing quickly,” McKinley said. “More than seventy years ago a promise was made by the federal government to our miners. These men and women deserve better and this Congress has a chance to provide them with the certainty they deserve.”

The most recent version of the miners’ pension plan, the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan, will become insolvent by 2022. There are 25,451 participants in the mine workers pension plan in West Virginia, with annual benefits paid totaling more than $199 million.

Insolvency would affect more than 100,000 miners nationwide.

McKinley has introduced similar miner pension legislation since 2013, including a 2017 bill that helped protect health care coverage for more than 22,000 coal miners.

“We have been leading this fight for six years in Congress and it’s past time for Congress to act,” McKinley said. “We need to keep our promise to these miners, so they have peace of mind. Congress must act before the end of the year to address this issue once and for all.”

Last week, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., led Senate colleagues in calling for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to allow votes on a House and Senate bill also aimed at stabilizing the pension funds of coal miners and other union pension funds.

“If one major coal company goes bankrupt soon, the timeline for pension fund insolvency is significantly sooner,” Manchin said. “By September 2020 coal miners could see drastic cuts to their benefits if we don’t do something now. If the Miners’ Pension Fund becomes insolvent, a snowball effect will happen, with other pension plans following suit.”

The American Miners Act, sponsored by Manchin, is sitting in committee. The Rehabilitation for Multi-employer Pensions Act was passed by the House of Representatives in July and sent to the Senate, with no action to date.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in a floor speech Oct. 16, decried delays in helping retired miners.

“These hard-working men and women deserve the pensions that they were promised. And we should make sure they receive the benefits they earned by passing legislation to protect their pensions this year,” Capito said.

McKinley and a bipartisan group of nine co-sponsors, including Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, Republicans from West Virginia, wrote a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to expedite passage of the Miners Pension Protection Act.

“While I am thrilled that our pension bill has passed out of committee, we still need Speaker Pelosi to bring it to the House Floor for a vote,” McKinley said.