Time Running Out for Retirees
Give Murray Energy Corp. credit for hanging in there longer than many other coal companies. While many other firms, both large and small, succumbed to financial pressures and filed for bankruptcy protection during the past several years, St. Clairsville-based Murray attempted to tough it out.
Now, however, the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That means it will seek court-ordered relief from some obligations while restructuring its operations.
Let us hope and pray Murray NewCo, which will replace Murray Energy, is successful. More than 7,000 coal miners, many of them our neighbors, depend on the firm for employment.
But the bankruptcy raises another challenge, involving retired miners and their families. There are about 82,000 retirees, again, many of them in our area. They rely on the United Mine Workers of America pension fund, which was sustained for many years by per-ton contributions from coal companies.
During the past few years, many of those firms have declared bankruptcy and/or shut down. They no longer make payments to the pension fund. Murray is the largest contributor, by far.
As UMWA President Cecil Roberts has pointed out, Murray’s bankruptcy may end pension fund support by the company.
Members of Congress from our states have sought federal action to rescue the pension program, which had been headed for insolvency by 2022. The Murray bankruptcy may move that up to next year.
Congress simply must act — now — to save the miners’ pension program. For tens of thousands of good men and women who worked hard all their lives, time is running out.