The Fight Is Not Over For Westmoreland Retirees - UMWA

Mar 4, 2019

United Mine Workers of America logo
Credit United Mine Workers of America

Retirees of the Kemmerer Coal Mine won't be getting their expected health-care benefits, but the United Mine Workers of America aren't giving up. 

Mike Dalpiaz, International Vice President for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) representing coal mine workers in the Western U.S., said negotiations are underway with the mine's new owner for benefits and conditions of employment. The new owner is billionaire executive Tom Clarke. A Houston bankruptcy court approved the sale March 2.

"We've got to make sure our current pensioners they get their checks every single month. That's what's so important. Most, a lot, of these people live on that," Dalpiaz said.

The Houston court ended up allowing retirees to retain pensions, albeit frozen and without accrual, and get a year's worth of healthcare benefits. A lawyer representing Westmoreland said those benefits serve as a transition for a congressional solution.

Dalpiaz said UMWA is lobbying hard to pass the American Miners Act of 2019. It would provide a lifetime healthcare plan for Westmoreland Coal Company retirees.

"We're going to bring people from all them states, you know, to lobby their representatives or Congressmen, their Senators of the respective states to see whether or not they will do something," Dalpiaz said.

He said no representatives or senators from Wyoming or Idaho have come out to support the bill to provide benefits.