Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Coal Act Legislative Reports 2002-2003

February 14, 2003
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Hails U.S. Senate and House Vote to Include $34 Million for the UMWA Combined Benefit Fund in the FY2003 Appropriations Bill


Thanks Sen. Robert C. Byrd for Leadership and Assistance

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is hailing the clearance yesterday by a U.S. Senate and House conference committee of an amendment drafted by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) that appropriates $34 million to the UMWA's Combined Benefit Fund (CBF). Following committee clearance, the amendment was attached to the FY2003 Appropriations bill, which was passed last night in the House and Senate. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.

"UMWA members nationwide are extremely grateful to Senator Byrd for, once again, leading the charge to ensure that our Combined Benefit Fund remains solvent and that the federal government's promise to provide lifetime health care benefits to retired miners and their dependents is not broken," praised Roberts. "We've said all along, like Senator Byrd, that the $34 million is not the cure-all for the Combined Benefit Fund's financial woes, but it is a huge help because it provides us some much-needed time to work on a long-term solution to the problem." Roberts also thanked Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for his help and all the members of the House who signed a letter in support of the Byrd amendment.

Roberts again reminded that Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Robert Ney's (R-Ohio) CARE 21 legislation has been reintroduced in the U.S. House and that a version is expected soon in the U.S. Senate. CARE 21 would help shore up the finances of the UMWA's CBF by lifting a restriction in the Coal Act that interest transfers to the CBF from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be limited to paying solely for "orphaned" coal miner health care. The legislation would allow interest transfers to be made to offset the amount of any CBF deficits in order to prevent any reductions in coverage.

"CARE 21 is definitely a longer-term fix to this financial crisis, and we would encourage both bodies to pass the legislation," said Roberts.

January 23, 2003
UMWA Wins Important Health Care Resolution of Dispute (ROD)

The UMWA won an important victory involving rules on mail order prescription drug programs. Some coal companies, including Peabody Energy and Consol Energy, established mail order drug programs that imposed "surcharges" for long-term maintenance drug prescriptions filled at a local pharmacy. While the UMWA supports the use of mail order prescription drugs, we disagreed with a company's right to impose additional costs beyond the co-payment. The Union filed a Resolution of Dispute (ROD) with the trustees of the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds, asking them to rule that surcharges are not allowed. The trustees have reached a final decision that finds such surcharges are "inconsistent with the prescription drug coverage and cost containment provisions" of the Employer Benefit Plan.

This ROD decision means that companies will not be permitted to assess additional surcharges beyond the regular co-payment if a beneficiary chooses to fill a prescription at a local pharmacy. Any beneficiaries who have incurred such surcharges should contact the company to request reimbursement for all improper surcharges.

This dispute was never about mail order drugs, but about a company's attempt to impose surcharges. The UMWA supports the use of mail order prescriptions and urges you to continue utilizing these programs if you find them convenient for you and your family. Mail order prescriptions are filled without a co-payment, thereby saving you money. However, the UMWA must insist that companies follow the contract and the negotiated benefit plans.

January 22, 2003
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Hails Inclusion of $34 Million Earmarked for the Combined Benefit Fund in Senate FY 2003 Appropriations Bill
Thanks Sen. Robert C. Byrd for Leadership and Assistance


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is hailing the inclusion of $34 million in the Senate's FY2003 Appropriations bill, earmarked to help ensure the continued solvency of the UMWA's Combined Benefit Fund (CBF).

"Once again, the UMWA is very grateful to Senator Robert C. Byrd for making it his top legislative priority to ensure that our Combined Benefit Fund remains solvent," said Roberts. "Granted, this is only a short-term fix to the larger financial problems confronting the Combined Benefit Fund, but this $34 million will afford us some time to seek a long-term solution to this problem. We thank Senators Byrd and Stevens and all other members of the Appropriations Committee who voted to attach this money to the bill, and we are hopeful the House will soon approve the money as well."

The Senate bill now moves to the House, where there will be a conference to iron out the final legislation that will be sent to President Bush for his signature.

Roberts reminded that Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Robert Ney's (R-Ohio) CARE 21 legislation has been reintroduced in the U.S. House and that a version is expected soon in the U.S. Senate. CARE 21 would help shore up the finances of the UMWA's CBF by lifting a restriction in the Coal Act that interest transfers to the CBF from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be limited to paying solely for "orphaned" coal miner health care. The legislation would allow interest transfers to be made to offset the amount of any CBF deficits in order to prevent any reductions in coverage.

"CARE 21 is definitely a longer-term fix to this financial crisis, and we would encourage both bodies to pass the legislation," said Roberts. "If this were to happen, there may not be a need for Senator Byrd and others to continue making emergency appropriations like the one announced today."

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Hails U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 Ruling, Requiring Coal Operators to Continue Paying Into the Combined Benefit Fund

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is hailing a decision (case Nos. 01-705 and 01-715) today by the U.S. Supreme Court that requires coal operators to continue paying into the Combined Benefit Fund, as mandated by the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992, or "Coal Act."

By a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled–just as two U.S. Circuit Courts did late last year–that the Social Security Administration Commissioner did not exceed his/her authority by assigning retired coal miners to specific companies after October 1,1993; the date that Congress established in the Act. After the miner is assigned, the coal company designated must pay into the Combined Benefit Fund, which, under the Act, provides health care benefits to 50,000 retired miners and widows.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice David Souter said, "The question is whether an initial assignment made after [October 1993] is valid despite its untimeliness. We hold that it is."

"This is a huge victory for retired coal miners nationwide covered under the Coal Act," said Roberts. "Some coal operators were convinced that they had found a way to wiggle out of their obligation to provide health care to their retired miners, but today's decision by the Supreme Court proves them wrong. These operators knew their responsibility when they signed a contract–and when the Coal Act was enacted–and the UMWA is very pleased that the nation's highest court has now mandated that they hold up their end of the bargain."

Roberts said the UMWA estimates that today's decision will impact some10,000 beneficiaries, who would have had their health care paid for with interest money from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund had the companies won this case.

"Because of today's decision, these beneficiaries are no longer ‘orphans,'" he added.

October 4, 2002
"New Day, New Case, Same Result"U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Issues RulingUpholding the Constitutionality of the Coal Act


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is hailing a fifth decision in less than two months that upholds the constitutionality of the 1992 Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992, or "Coal Act."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Wednesday (case Nos. 00-3729,3798 and 3830) that the Berwind Corporation must continue paying into the Combined Benefit Fund, which provides health care benefits to the company's retired miners.

Like Eastern Enterprises in 1998, Berwind argued that the Coal Act's retroactive language requiring it to pay into the Combined Benefit Fund to provide health care for its retired miners employed prior to 1974 violated their constitutional right to "due process." Berwind also argued that the Social Security Administration Commissioner made assignments to the company after October 1, 1993; the cutoff date that Congress mandated in the Act.

In its ruling yesterday against Berwind, the Court said, "We hold that assignments are valid because the Act is not unconstitutional as applied to Berwind."

Roberts praised the Third Circuit ruling, saying, "New day, new case, same result. Five times now in less than two months, the courts have upheld the Coal Act's constitutionality. The UMWA is cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will soon decide the same."

October 3, 2002
United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts ApplaudsNews that the U.S. House of Representatives has Passed the"Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act for the 21st Century"


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts joined with UMWA members nationwide in applauding news of last night's vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the "Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act for the 21st Century" (CARE 21).

CARE 21, sponsored by Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Robert Ney (R-Ohio), seeks to bolster the finances of the UMWA's Combined Benefit Fund (CBF)–a fund created as part of the 1992 Coal Act to provide health care benefits to eligible retired miners. Based on an agreement signed in 1946 between U.S. President Harry Truman and UMWA President John L. Lewis, the federal government promised UMWA coal miners cradle-to-grave health care coverage. The Coal Act reiterated and confirmed that promise. Today, several recent adverse court rulings are threatening the CBF's solvency, and CARE 21 would help address that problem by lifting a restriction that interest transfers to the CBF from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be limited to paying solely for "orphaned" coal miner health care. CARE 21 would allow interest transfers to be made to offset the amount of any CBF deficits in order to prevent any reductions in coverage.

"Last night's action by the U.S. House is a very positive step in helping restore solvency to the Combined Benefit Fund, which is currently suffering financially because of a few adverse court rulings," said Roberts. "While the UMWA expresses our appreciation to the entire House for its bipartisan support of CARE 21, we especially want to thank Representatives Rahall and Ney for their leadership on the issue and for championing this very important legislation." He added, "The next step is to ask our friends in the Senate to take up CARE 21, pass it and then enact it. And if you look at the current deficits being projected by year's end for the Combined Benefit Fund, time is definitely of the essence here."

Roberts also said that the money being taken from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AML) Fund is interest only and not principal.

"The money will still be in the AML Fund to finance the important job of cleaning up our nation's abandoned mine sites," he explained.

September 25, 2002
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Issues RulingUpholding the Constitutionality of the Coal ActUnited Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Hopeful Ruling Will Help Going Into Upcoming Supreme Court Case of a Similar Nature


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is hailing a fourth decision in less than a month that upholds the constitutionality of the 1992 Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992, or "Coal Act."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled yesterday (case No. 00-2525) that Shenango Inc., Stelco USA Inc., Stelco Coal Co. and Mueller Industries must continue paying into the Combined Benefit Fund, which provides health care benefits to the companies' retired miners.

Like Eastern Enterprises in 1998, Shenango and the related companies argued that the Coal Act's retroactive language requiring the companies to pay into the Combined Benefit Fund to provide health care for their retired miners employed prior to 1974 violated their constitutional right to "due process." Shenango and the related companies also argued that the Social Security Administration Commissioner "exceeded his authority because he made some assignments after October 1, 1993; the ‘cutoff' that Congress mandated in the Act."
In its ruling yesterday against Shenango and the related companies, the Court said, "We conclude that the assignments are not unconstitutional as applied, and that the District Court did not err in dismissing the Companies' challenge to the assignments."

Roberts said the UMWA particularly welcomed the Court's agreement that the SSA Commissioner's assignments made after October 1, 1993, did not violate the Act's statutory construction.

"This was a very important ruling because in two weeks the Supreme Court will hear argument in a case brought by several companies, where they are also challenging assignments made to them after the October 1993 date," explained Roberts. "We already had a Fourth Circuit decision saying the assignments did not violate the provisions of the statute, and now we have a Third Circuit decision saying the same. Certainly, these decisions will have to be looked at by the Supreme Court Justices."

Roberts added that, historically, there have been numerous cases of deadlines being placed in government statutes and not being met.

September 19, 2002
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Hails Court RulingUpholding the Constitutionality of the Coal Act.A.T. Massey's Argument Rejected


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is applauding a third decision in less than a month that upholds the constitutionality of the 1992 Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992, or "Coal Act."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled yesterday (case No. 01-2155) that A.T. Massey must continue paying into the Combined Benefit Fund, which provides health care benefits to the company's retired miners.

A.T. Massey argued that the money the Massey Coal Group had to pay to provide its subsidiaries' miners with lifetime health care benefits constituted an illegal "takings." A.T. Massey also argued that the Coal Act's retroactive language requiring the company's subsidiaries to pay into the Combined Benefit Fund to provide health care for their retired miners employed prior to 1974 violated their constitutional right to "due process."

In 1998, Eastern Enterprises used a similar argument to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to rule 5-4 in the company's favor–a decision that dealt a harsh blow to the Coal Act's financial integrity.

In its ruling yesterday against A.T. Massey, the Court said, "We find that the Massey Plaintiffs are part of an entity whose experiences in the coal mining industry are not substantially identical to those of Eastern," and "We find the position of the Massey Plaintiffs easily distinguishable from that of Eastern. Because the Massey Plaintiffs do not stand in a position 'substantially identical' to that of Eastern, the (Social Security Administration) Commissioner's assignments of liability to the Massey Plaintiffs are not unconstitutional under Eastern Enterprises."

"Like some other coal operators, A.T. Massey thought it could use the legal system to try and wiggle out of its promise to provide lifetime health care benefits to its workers," said Roberts. "But if you examine the courts' past three rulings on cases like Massey's, the operators' arguments are simply not holding water." He added, "Thankfully, there are still honorable coal operators out there who acknowledge the promise they made to their workers. My advice to the companies who continue to tie up our nation's legal system with these meritless cases is to follow the responsible operators' example and quit trying to duck your responsibilities."

September 12, 2002
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts HailsYet Another Court Ruling Upholding the Constitutionality of theCoal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is applauding a second decision in less than a month that upholds the constitutionality of the 1992 Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992, or "Coal Act."

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled yesterday that Nell Jean Industries must continue paying into the Combined Benefit Fund, which provides health care benefits to the company's retired miners, saying "the Coal Act is not unconstitutional as applied to plaintiff." In late August, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia ruled the same in a case brought by Pittston Coal Co. that also questioned the constitutionality of the Coal Act as applied to the company.

"Some of these coal operators continue to try and use the courts to wiggle out of their obligation to pay for lifetime health care benefits for the miners that made them their profits," said Roberts. "But–as they should–the courts are repeatedly telling the operators to own up to their responsibilities–which they have known about all along," said Roberts, adding, "As UMWA members celebrate the tenth anniversary of this very important legislation (the Coal Act), it is heartening to see that–for the most part–the courts are not buying the argument that the law is somehow unconstitutional when applied to certain operators."

September 5, 2002
Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd and Representative Nick Rahall to beHonored at a United Mine Workers of America Luncheon Celebrating theTenth Anniversary of the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992


At 1:00 p.m., Monday, Sept. 9, 2002, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts and Secretary-Treasurer Carlo Tarley will join with nearly 200 members, supporters and friends at the Country Inn in Beckley, W.Va., to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992. The UMWA will also honor U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd and Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia for their steadfast support of the legislation.

Known simply to UMWA members as the "Coal Act," the legislation is a federal government promise to provide lifetime health care benefits to America's coal miners. The original promise was made in 1946 by U.S. President Harry Truman to UMWA President John L. Lewis. In the 1980s, however, some in the coal industry began abandoning their retirees and dumping their responsibilities onto the UMWA's Health and Retirement Funds–moves that caused operators still fulfilling their obligations to bear a heavier financial burden. The issue gained national attention in 1989 when the UMWA struck Pittston Coal, which at the time was one of the operators refusing to pay its retiree health care benefits. The bitter strike led then-Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole to form a blue-ribbon Coal Commission to examine the issue and make recommendations. The Commission, which was chaired by former Labor Secretary Bill Usery, recommended that the benefits be protected and that operators be held accountable. In response to the Commission's findings, Sen. Rockefeller authored the Coal Act, which served to reinforce the 1946 promise. It was a tough legislative battle, but the UMWA prevailed and the Act was passed. It was signed into law by President George Bush on October 24, 1992.

In advance of the Sept. 9 event, Roberts said, "The passage of the Coal Act in 1992 was–and still is–just as important to UMWA members as the passage of the 1969 Coal Mine Safety and Health Act." He continued, "In 1946, the federal government promised UMWA coal miners 'cradle-to-grave' health care benefits and the Coal Act confirmed that promise in 1992. When we gather on September 9, we will not only mark the Act's tenth anniversary but also honor Senators Rockefeller and Byrd and Representative Rahall, all of whom were instrumental to the Coal Act's passage and all of whom have fought with us to ensure the promise to America's retired coal miners is never broken."

In the past few years, the UMWA has been forced once again to elicit the help and support of its friends in Congress, primarily due to a series of adverse court rulings that are presently eroding the Coal Act's built-in financing mechanisms and severely threatening the solvency of the Combined Benefit Fund (CBF), which was created by the Coal Act. Thankfully, Sen. Byrd has twice been able to procure additional federal dollars to shore up the Act's funding, but the CBF's assets continue to dwindle and a long-term solution to the problem is still needed.

"The UMWA is rallying behind Representative Rahall's 'CARE 21' legislation," said Roberts. "To offset deficits, this bill would allow interest transfers from the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund (AML) to the Combined Benefit Fund. It is a sensible solution because it takes no AML principal money, just interest, meaning the funds will still be there to continue the important job of cleaning up our nation's abandoned mines."

Rahall's CARE 21 legislation was moved out of the House Resources Committee in late June 2002.


1 Comments:

At November 22, 2005 at 8:25 AM, Blogger Blog World said...

Faith is spiritualized imagination.
Henry Ward Beecher- Posters.

 

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