Sunday, November 28, 2004

Keeping the Promise.....


Over 50 years ago an historic agreement was signed between the United Mine Workers of America and the federal government that created the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds. President Harry Truman was present for the signing ceremony. That agreement, known as the Krug-Lewis agreement, laid the foundation for decades of medical improvements in America's coal fields. Hundreds of thousands of coal mining families have enjoyed the promise of lifetime medical care for themselves and their dependents. The Secretary of Labor's Coal Commission found in 1990 that:

"Retired coal miners have legitimate expectations of health care for life; that was the promise they received during their working lives and that is how they planned their retirement years. That commitment should be honored."

Based on the recommendations of the Coal Commission, Congress enacted the Coal Act with bi-partisan support to ensure that the promise of lifetime health care for retired miners that began in the Oval office would continue for as long as the retirees survived. But today that promise is in danger of being broken for nearly 70,000 retirees and widows. Due to a series of court decisions the self-sustaining financial support for the UMWA Combined Fund that Congress put in place in the 1992 Coal act is in jeopardy. As a result, Congress must once again step in to ensure that the promise is kept.

How You Can Help...

In 1946 a promise was made by Congress to the coal miners, as a direct result of the sweat and blood of generations of coal miners whose toil carried this Nation through war and peace, through the Industrial and the Technological Revolutions.

A promise of cradle to grave health care that manifested itself into the 1992 Coal Act. And a promise made in 1977 to coalfield citizens and communities as a result of the ravages of past abuses, and on the souls of the 118 individuals who perished in 1972 at Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia.July 20, 2004 Horizon Rally

A promise to reclaim their devastated landscapes, to return their land to productive uses, and to protect their health and safety that is part and parcel of the landmark Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program has been a success. Unlike the Superfund, this program has a track record of real, on-the-ground progress in restoring lands and eliminating health and safety threats. And since 1992, through the transfer of just the interest which accrues to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to the Combined Benefit Fund, it has provided health care for tens of thousands of elderly retired coal miners whose former employers can no longer be identified.

Every street corner near the courthouse was lined with protesters like these.

The nexus is there. The welfare of abandoned miners and of reclaiming abandoned mines, you see, go hand in hand. To date, the promise has been kept.Yet, in June of 2005 the fees assessed on the coal industry which finances this effort expire.

If legislation is passed it will keep the promise to some 50,000 retired coal miners that their health care will continue uninterrupted.

The entrance to the federal bankruptcy court is wall-to-wall protesters.

Such legislation has shown dire importance, especially in the states of Kentucky, West Virginia and Illinois where On Aug. 31, 2004 in Lexington, KY, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William Howard finalized the decision allowing Horizon Natural Resources to file bankruptcy, thus voiding union contracts providing health care coverage for nearly 3,000 employees, including 2,300 retirees -- many of whom suffer from black lung as a result of their working years at Horizon. For many of these miners their only hope for health care coverage will be the passage of legislation which would KEEP THE PROMISE TO THE COAL MINERS.

Keep The Promise - Save The Coal Act