WASHINGTON (WDTV)-- U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined United Mine Workers of America, Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and AFL-CIO workers and retirees from across the country Wednesday to demand Senate action to protect the pensions and healthcare that workers have earned.
According to a press release from Manchin's office, the pension crisis threatens the retirement of up to 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide and could put small businesses in jeopardy. If Congress fails to take action by the end of this year, 1,200 coal mines, their widows and family members could also lose their healthcare coverage.
Democrats rallied with workers and retirees to demand Senate action from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“The Miners’ Pension Fund alone, a critical plan which covers 82,000 retired miners – 25,000 in West Virginia - and 20,000 full vested current workers, is projected to become insolvent by 2022. If one major coal company goes bankrupt soon, the timeline for pension fund insolvency is significantly sooner," said Manchin. "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. It has been 285 days since I introduced the American Miners Act, which would protect miners’ pensions from becoming collateral during coal mine bankruptcies. We must act now. That’s why I’m joining my colleagues today – to call for the passage of my legislation that will ensure our miners and retirees can retire and live peacefully without the constant worry of losing their hard-earned pensions.”
Retired West Virginia coal miner Rick Ryan says he worked in a coal mine for more than 30 years and miners will need benefits in retirement.
“When you work in a coal mine for so many years, your body gets beat up. We know we will need benefits in retirement," said Ryan "Congress saved my healthcare in 2017, and I am very grateful for that. But the job isn’t finished. Our pension plan is on the edge of insolvency, and we need action now.”
Numerous pension plans are on the brink of failure, according to the press release. Several other plans have cut benefits.
The press release says if the plans are allowed to fail, taxpayers and small business would be at risk of having to pay billions because the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation would be on the hook for billions of dollars it cannot pay.
PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pensions plans.