Editorial: Pensions and benefits for coal miners


America has an obligation to its retired coal miners. Union promised health insurance and pensions, largely depleted following the financial crisis in 2008, could vanish in less than 60 days, leaving more than 20,000 retired coal workers facing dire consequences.

The United Mine Workers Union sent notices to members that health and pension benefits will end April 30 unless Congress acts. Prior to 1974, the pension plan was 94 percent funded, according to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is pushing to have Congress help fund the pensions. Another big factor, of course, was the overall downturn in the coal industry with fewer jobs and companies and dues paying members to support the pensions.

In many industries, this cycle is just the facts of life. The stock market can crash and pensions can be lost. But the coal industry isn’t like other businesses. A deal dating back to 1946 between President Harry Truman and the union to end a debilitating strike pledged to guarantee pensions and health benefits for the coal miners.

Today, however, some in Congress, or with the ears of Congress members, oppose spending federal tax dollars to help a private sector union. In most cases, this would be a reasonable position. But these workers put their lives and health at risk for years with the promise they would be taken care of on the back end…

The (Ashtabula) Star Beacon