Retired miners may get to keep promised health care benefits
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last week dismissed an appeal by CONSOL Energy that sought to overturn a federal judge’s decision requiring CONSOL to continue paying for health care benefits to some 3,400 retired miners – members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) – their dependents and widows.
Judge David A. Faber of the Federal Court for Southern West Virginia in Bluefield issued a decision on March 17, 2017 that found CONSOL was attempting to violate a collective bargaining agreement requirement to pay for lifetime health care benefits for retirees. CONSOL had unilaterally sought to stop paying the contractually-required benefits and instead replace them with a plan to fund health savings accounts for five years with no promise of lifetime benefits.
Judge Faber issued a preliminary injunction order prohibiting CONSOL from implementing its plan until the legal process played out. CONSOL appealed the injunction and on November 28, the Fourth Circuit threw out CONSOL’s appeal.
“This is another step forward in this case, but it is far from over,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “CONSOL could do the right thing, decide to keep its promises to these retirees, withdraw its litigation and fulfill its obligation to provide full health care benefits. But unfortunately, they are instead focused on grasping every dollar at the expense of thousands of senior citizens – the very people who created the wealth that allowed CONSOL to make billions of dollars for decades.”