The Heritage Foundation

News Releases

September 8, 2016

September 8, 2016 | News Releases on

Taxpayers to Bailout Extravagant Union Promises?

Thousands of active and retired coal miners have descended on Washington, D.C. today as a part of a rally organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). They’re here to ask Congress to bail out the union’s massively under-funded pension plan—a bailout that could cost taxpayers up to half a billion dollars per year.

This morning in National Review, Heritage expert Rachel Greszler explains why the miners should be protesting their own union and not Congress. “It was the UMWA, not Congress or taxpayers, that made overblown promises to nearly 10,000 active and retired coal miners,” she argues.

Greszler also notes that the union is basing its call for congressional action on a false narrative—one that erroneously claims the federal government bears liability for the plan’s operation and solvency. “Rather than owning up to its own failures, the UMWA is trying to foist responsibility on the federal government,” she says.

“Coal mining is physically taxing, imposes serious health risks, and provides one of the least desirable work environments,” she observes, adding, “Coal miners who endure these conditions have a legitimate claim on the pension benefits that are part of their compensation and that their union promised.”

But, she argues, there is no legitimate claim against taxpayers.  Moreover, she notes, if Congress bails out the UMWA, it would open a huge can of worms—one that would put taxpayers on the hook for bailing out all other failing union pension plans—at a cost of $600 billion.

For more of Rachel’s research on the pension issue see below:

About the Author

Justin Posey Communications Manager, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity and Legal Studies
Media Relations