Pensions adequate to support retired miners was a long held goal of the major union in Appalachia, the United Mine Worker of America (UMWA.) The UMWA was the first labor union in this country to negotiate retirement and health benefits for its members, and through the historic 1946 Krug-Lewis agreement and subsequent collective bargaining agreements, UMWA members were promised both access to good health care and adequate pensions in their retirement.
However, the UMWA pension and health care benefits are now in severe jeopardy. Many coal companies which funded the pensions through periodic payments have declared bankruptcy. These bankruptcies endanger the pensions and health care benefits of retired UMWA miners since bankruptcy courts often allow coal companies to invalidate collective bargaining agreements and suspend the pension and health care benefits.