Friday, April 22, 2005

Trustees Vote to Add Retirees to Benefit Plan

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts Hails Trustees' Vote
to Admit Horizon Retirees in UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts hailed today's
vote by the UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan trustees to admit retirees from Horizon
Natural Resources Inc. and their dependants to the 1993 Benefit Plan, which
restored full health care benefits to nearly 2,500 people.

"This victory is the first ray of light these good people have seen in
months," Roberts said. "Their lives have been needlessly and unjustly turned
upside down since last August, and this is a first step towards restoring to
them the health care benefits that are rightfully theirs."

In August, 2004, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge terminated the health care
benefits for about 5,000 active UMWA members, retirees and dependents at
Horizon as part of his ruling that liquidated the company's assets. Some
2,500 retirees and dependents were eligible for coverage through the UMWA
1992 Benefit Fund. Health care benefits for the remaining 2,500 have been
paid directly by the UMWA for the last six months, however those benefits
will expire on April 30.

"Much more needs to be done before benefits are assured for the long term,"
Roberts said. "The 1993 Fund is already in a precarious financial position,
and adding these beneficiaries will only add to the 1993 Fund's problems.
Without quick action by CongressCthis yearCthe 1993 Fund will be in serious
financial difficulty."

"Congress has the ability to help these people, and there are several ways
it can do it," Roberts said. "Which ever way it chooses, Congress must act
quickly to do the right thingCthe responsible thingCand give these retirees
and their dependents the peace of mind they've earned."

"These people worked hard for 30, 40, even 50 years in the mines, putting
their lives on the line every day to provide our nation with the energy it
needs, and always believing the promise they were given by Harry Truman in
1946--reaffirmed by two United States presidents and two acts of
Congress--that they would have health care when they retired," Roberts said.
"A single bankruptcy judge ripped that promise away. It's incumbent on
Congress to live up to America's promise to these miners, and do it now."

Unlike the CBF and 1992 Benefit Fund, which are included in the Coal Act and
have mandatory employer contribution rates set by congressional statute, the
1993 Fund is solely funded by employer contributions negotiated in
collective bargaining agreements. Current contribution rates are inadequate
to cover benefits due to the skyrocketing cost of health care. The current
contract does not expire until December, 2006.

And the battle rages on....Check it out at Resist Oppression where there are labor updates all the time!!


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