Baby Steps

With the bipartisan effort recently put forward by the U.S. Senate to support funding for the nearly collapsed United Mine Workers pension system, Congress is finally showing an interest in supporting the American worker that was promised a benefit, but who have been left high and dry in many recent cases. Given Congress’s heightened focus on the impeachment hearings, I wasn’t sure that much, if anything, was going to get done during the remainder of the year. Glad that I might be wrong!

The proposed American Miners Act of 2019 would transfer funds from the Interior Department’s Abandoned Mine Land fund to help meet the benefit obligations (including some healthcare expenditures) for those workers in the 1974 Pension Plan, which is a plan with roughly $3.1 billion in assets, while saddled with an estimated $3 billion in unfunded obligations. The legislation was introduced by West Virginia Senators Shelly Moore Capito (R) and Joe Manchin (D) along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY). The legislation is also co-sponsored by a number of Senators from mining states, such as Ohio, Pensylvania, and Virginia, as well as others.

This is a good first step, but much more needs to be done to sure up the failing pension systems for roughly 120 other multiemployer plans. Hopefully, with McConnell’s support of this effort, he will be more inclined to bring to the floor for a vote the Butch Lewis Act that passed through the House in July. Time is wasting, and with each passing day, more pressure is applied to these cash-starved plans. A major market correction prior to receiving critical support would likely be a death knell event.

 

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