WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) rallied today with hundreds of Ohio coalminers calling for passage of his bipartisan bill – the Miner’s Protection Act – which would protect the hard-earned health care benefits and pensions of our nation’s coal miners.
“Our miners worked decades in the mines – hard, backbreaking work, but work that had dignity; work that powered this country and that was supposed to help them build a better life for their families,” said Brown. “But right now, these miners are facing crippling cuts to the health care and retirement security they earned. Congress shouldn’t leave Washington until we keep the promises we’ve made to miners and their families.”
More than 400 Ohio coalminers and retirees came to Washington for the rally including the following UMWA chapters:
- UMWA Local 1188 – Coshocton
- UMWA Local 1304 – Hopedale
- UMWA Local 1360 – Adena
- UMWA Local 1506 – Dillonvale
- UMWA Local 1604 – Byesville
- UMWA Local 1785 – Bellaire
- UMWA Local 1810 – Barnsville
- UMWA Local 4826 – Caldwell
- UMWA Local 5497 – Powhatan Point
- UMWA Local 7690 – Martins Ferry
- UMWA Local 9695 – St. Clairsville
Among them were Harold “Babe” Erdoes, a retired miner from Belmont County; Dave Dilly, a retired miner from Fresno and member of UMWA Local 1188; and Norm Skinner, a retired miner from Dresden and member of UMWA Local 1188.
In June, Brown helped secure a commitment from the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch to hold a vote on the Miners Protection Act in the Finance Committee. The bill would address the shortfall in the UMWA 1974 pension plan and the imminent loss of health care benefits for retired miners employed by coal companies that have declared bankruptcy.
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 health care and benefits of retirees in jeopardy. If the plan becomes insolvent, retirees could lose their health care and see reductions in their monthly pension checks. Despite the fact that the Miner’s Protection Act is a bipartisan solution to save the United Mine Workers of America’s (UMWA) pensions, the Senate has yet to hold a vote.