STEUBENVILLE, OH —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) convened a roundtable at I.B.E.W Local 246 with retired Ohio coalminers as he continues to fight for their hard-earned healthcare coverage and retirement security. In January, Brown reintroduced his bipartisan bill, the Miners Protection Act, with U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Their bill would address the shortfall in the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) 1974 pension plan and make healthcare coverage permanent for retirees. Without Congressional action, Ohio miners will lose their healthcare coverage in April.
“After years of backbreaking and dangerous work, Ohio miners are now faced with the fear of losing the benefits they earned,” said Brown. “They were promised retirement security and health benefits – security they sacrificed pay raises and their own health for. They descended into our nation’s mines every day to hold up their end of that bargain – now we’ve got to hold up ours. We made a promise to these workers, and I will fight like hell to make sure Congress keeps it."
The UMWA’s 1974 pension plan was 94 percent funded prior to 2008. Due to many factors including the financial crisis and fewer active workers, the plan is now severely underfunded – putting the healthcare and benefits of retirees in jeopardy. If the plan becomes insolvent, retirees could see reductions in their monthly pension checks. Brown has called on Congress to include permanent healthcare coverage for retirees in any extension of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that runs out on April 28.
Brown was joined at the roundtable by UMWA retirees, labor leaders, and elected officials.
“We have fought for almost 4 years to get our Miners Protection Act passed. Because of the age of most of our retirees, to go out and purchase health care at the market place today will be a very great burden for most of them. Senators Brown and Manchin have led this fight for us in Washington, and we thank them for everything they have done and continue to do for us,” said Norm Skinner, President of UMWA Local 1188 in Coshocton.
In December, the Senate passed a continuing resolution that included a four-month proposal to fund retired miners’ healthcare for the duration of the continuing resolution, which ends in April. Brown and his colleagues fought to include the long-term solution in the bill.