On Feb. 15, a federal bankruptcy court judge ruled that Westmoreland Coal Company could sever union collective bargaining agreements for its active and former mining operations. This includes agreements that affect Westmoreland’s former mines in Virginia.
Although Westmoreland left Wise County, Va., in the mid-90s, the company has many area retirees whose benefits can now be terminated.
The American Miners Act of 2019, released in January, attempts to rectify this situation by amending a federal mining law to increase allocations to the United Mine Workers of America pension plan, and to restore funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that was reduced at the end of 2018. The bill’s sponsors estimate that it would protect the pensions of over 87,000 current beneficiaries and more than 20,000 retirees. – By Matt Hepler