WV lawmakers file legislation to protect retired coal miners

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Some of West Virginia's congressional delegates are looking to protect the benefits and pensions of retired mine workers and their families.

U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., along with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., introduced a bill called the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act (CARE).

The bill would dramatically change where pension money comes from, keeping retired workers and their families financially stable.

That would include families like Alexia Clark's, whose dad is a miner and grandpa is a retired miner.

"I think it's terrible -- I mean, you're taking away the money that people are needing to use. They don't have a job or anything, they kind of rely on that," Clark said.

But the stresses of a miner don't stop when they retire; Alexia's grandpa is a retired Peabody miner.

"Yeah, I mean, we talk about it sometimes -- he just talks about how if they take it away how much it will affect him and it'll affect my grandma," Clark said.

Peabody is the parent company of Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy putting the retirement benefits of hundreds of thousands of mine workers, many of which are in West Virginia, in jeopardy.

Back in January, 10 UMWA backed protesters, in a continued fight to keep those benefits, were arrested outside the headquarters of Peabody Energy in St. Louis.

"Your health insurance is very important -- I mean, that could be a big chunk of their income if they had an accident or they got sick," Boone County resident Diana Boggs said.

Boggs lost a husband in the mines, so she's glad to hear that her elected leaders are stepping up to the plate to protect the people that make their living underground.

"It would be terrible that these men work all their lives in the mining industry and then when it comes time to retire they don't have any medical insurance or any benefits -- I think it's sad," Boggs said.

The CARE act would also help retirees who lose benefits because of a bankruptcy, like in Patriot Coal's case, by allowing them to be eligible for a different benefit plan.

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