(Submitted by the United Mine Workers of America)
President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9728 on May 21, 1946, which required the U.S. Interior Department to take possession of all bituminous coal mines in the U.S., and the government assumed the task of negotiating and ultimately commencing “appropriate changes in the terms and conditions of employment.”
Then-Interior Secretary Krug negotiated the National Bituminous Wage Agreement with UMWA President John L. Lewis, which was signed in the White House with President Truman looking on. The historic Krug-Lewis Agreement created a Welfare and Retirement Fund, which was intended to make …payments to miners, and their dependents and survivors, with respect to wage loss not otherwise compensated at all or adequately under the provision of Federal or State law and resulting from sickness… permanent disability, death, or retirement…. The agreement also created a Medical and Hospital Fund which built hospitals throughout the coal fields.
The following year the government returned control of the mines to the mine operators. Every subsequent National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement has required that signatory employers participate in and contribute to the Welfare and Retirement Fund, which ultimately became the 1974 Pension Fund. Mine operators also contractually agreed to provide lifetime health care and pensions for retired and disabled miners and their surviving spouses.
To achieve this end, miners for more than 70 years exchanged less in their wallets on payday to secure dignity in retirement for themselves and their surviving spouses. Over the decades as bankruptcies and other economic shocks hit the coal industry, the U.S. government has continued to recognize that it needed to keep the promise of the Krug-Lewis agreement, which continues to play a role in guaranteeing retiree health care for those retirees and widows whose companies went out of business.
The UMWA wants the record to reflect our recognition and appreciation for the Maritimes Trades Department, AFL-CIO and our affiliated brothers and sisters who have fought beside us to save the lives of our nations’ coal miners. We salute you as true patriots and stewards of all that is good for humankind and the Labor Movement.
The Krug-Lewis promise is, however, only half fulfilled, because bankruptcy restructuring and dissolution has allowed coal employers that participated in the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund to end their contributions without paying any withdrawal liabilities.
The national recession of 2008-09 caused the 1974 Fund, which was funded properly, to lose a substantial portion of it its value with no clear path for recovery. Since that recession, a depression in the coal fields has caused tens of thousands of jobs to be eliminated, diminishing contributions to the fund at the very time the amount of retirees receiving benefits is at its peak.
Coal miners have sacrificed much to energize and build America; more than 200,000 coal miners have been killed on the job or died as a result of black lung in the last century.
Congress has established a bipartisan, bicameral Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans which has been given the task of drafting legislation that is to be reported out of the committee by the last week of November.
The Joint Select Committee could provide the necessary financial assistance to the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund and other union pension funds, thereby preventing their collapse.
The MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils recognize the needs of America’s coal miners and pledge our support to our brothers and sisters in the United Mine Workers of America to obtain their well-deserved pensions.
The MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils further pledge to take all necessary steps to aid in the production of legislation from the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans so that the collapse of the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund is prevented.
Approved 2018 MTD Executive Board Meeting