CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The fight is continuing for active and retired coal miners in West Virginia and across the country for their pensions.
Cecil Roberts, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President, was in Charleston Wednesday updating hundreds of members of UMWA District 17 on the battle in Congress that he says will end on their side.
“We are going to win this,” Roberts told MetroNews. “The only question is when. If you don’t quit, you’re going to win at some point. I feel like we have plenty of support to get this done.”
The conference centered around miners in the 1974 Pension Plan who might lose their benefits by 2023 if Congress does not act. Roberts said during the conference that over 83,000 miners get pensions from the 1974 plan.
According to UMWA, more than 106,000 active miners and their widows’ pensions may become insolvent in the coming years.
Roberts said the miners have received support on both sides of the aisle as this is not a partisan issue, but a moral issue in keeping promises.
“It was a promise made in 1946,” Roberts said. “It was confirmed in ’90, confirmed in ’92, confirmed in 2006 and confirmed again in 2017. It’s not a question of it being a promise but it should be a movement by now.”
If the miners’ pension plans collapse in the coming years, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation would collapse as well, said Roberts. As a result of that, he said if the miners’ plans become insolvent, almost every state in the union will be touched.
He said the plan can be fixed for $3 billion but the money seems to go to the wrong people.
“We’ve watched this Wall Street bailout after the great recession, which caused this problem,” Roberts said. “It bailed out everybody that caused the problem but everyone that was adversely affected by it, who worked for a living.”
Miners from multiple states were in the crowd on Wednesday, including West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.
All were told by Roberts to continue to keep an eye out on Congress and remember to vote for politicians who vote for the miners.