Bill introduced to protect Patriot miner benefits
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David B. McKinley, both R-W.Va., have introduced legislation to protect the health-care and pension benefits for miners and retirees associated with Patriot Coal Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2012.
Rep. Nick J Rahall, D-W.Va., and 14 other House members co-sponsored the legislation -- the Coal Mine Health Care and Pension Protection Act of 2013.
McKinley said, "Over the past 2 1/2 years, my staff and I have been working with United Mine Workers of America officials, miners and retirees in an effort to protect health-care and pension benefits for our miners.
"After hearing the stories of what these men and their families face if they lose their benefits, it was clear that we had to find a solution," McKinley said.
Capito said, "I am proud to join my West Virginia colleagues in introducing this legislation. We have worked diligently together to craft legislation that addresses the most pressing issues retirees are facing as a result of Patriot Coal Co.'s bankruptcy.
"These hardworking coal miners have dedicated their lives to providing electricity to the Mountain State and building its economy, and we cannot let them down. I will continue to fight for our coal miners and the retirees whose benefits are at risk."
Rahall noted that the goals of Capito and McKinley's bill mirrored those of a bill he introduced in the House in March, so he said he was "happy to lend my support to this bill as well."
"This effort is about standing up for coal miners, their widows and our coalfield communities. After a lifetime of labor, they have earned the right to retire and live in dignity and I refuse to stand idly by as our miners see the benefits they earned over a lifetime eroded by forces beyond their control," Rahall said.
UMW President Cecil Roberts said the legislation would "provide significant help to retired miners and widows whose health care is threatened."
"The Coal Mine Health Care and Pension Protection Act of 2013 will also provide security for the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan, which serves nearly 100,000 pensioners.
"I want to thank Representatives McKinley and Capito for introducing this bill and for their support of the retired miners, their spouses or widows, who through no fault of their own, currently face a loss of the health care they were promised and earned through lifetimes of service in America's mines," Roberts said.
Most Patriot retirees worked for Peabody Energy or Arch Coal during their mining careers but were transferred to Patriot after that new company was created in 2007.
In May, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that Patriot could severely cut union-negotiated benefits for workers and retirees in an attempt to emerge from bankruptcy.
Other co-sponsors of the new House legislation include Reps. George Miller, D-Calif.; Jim Moran, D-Va.; Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.; Andy Barr, R-Ky.; Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; Bill Johnson, R-Ohio; Mike Turner, R-Ohio; David Joyce, R-Ohio; Allison Schwartz, D-Pa.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Bill Enyart, D-Ill.; Larry Buschon, R-Ind.; William Lacy Clay Jr., D-Mo.; and Steve Stivers, R-Okla.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced similar legislation in the Senate in March, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as a co-sponsor.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.