CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tuesday marked 285 days since U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced the American Miners Act in his respective congressional chamber.
The bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Finance, where it has been since Jan. 3.
“The miners rely on their hard-earned pensions and retirement. They should be secured, even if coal companies file bankruptcy,” Manchin said on the Senate floor. “We must act, and this cannot happen without bipartisan support.”
Manchin previously said 87,000 retired coal miners could lose their pensions if nothing is done by 2022, and 20,000 additional beneficiaries who have yet to draw their pensions would not have funds available when they retire.
The American Miners Act would require the Department of Treasury to transfer funding to the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension plan, as well as increase the limit on transfers from $490 million to $750 million, and extend health care access to coal miners whose employers recently entered bankruptcy.
Manchin and Democratic colleagues spoke on the Senate floor in August in favor of the legislation. Manchin was also among the senators who wrote to congressional leaders in September urging the bill’s passage.
West Virginia’s senior senator said Tuesday if the pension fund becomes insolvent, it will affect the pensions of workers in other fields.
“An absolute snowball for the central pensions. If that happens, it’s been said that the recession of 2007 and 2008 will be a blip on the radar screen compared to what this will do to our economy nationwide. And the companies are going to walk away scot-free,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that some of our hardest workers have to beg for the money that they put into the pension fund over years and years of hard work.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., on Tuesday tweeted support for her legislation, the Miners Pension Protection Act. The bill is similar to Manchin’s measure; the American Miners Act would restore the Black Lung Liability Trust Fund excise tax through December 2028.
“These aren’t lavish pensions. The average benefit is $590/month. But for thousands of retired miners, it makes a big difference!” Capito tweeted. “We can make this right. We can fulfill the promise. Let’s get this done!”