July 14, 2014

How Natalie Tenant’s Top Surrogate Elizabeth Warren Tried To Leave Coal Miners “Out In The Cold”

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Elizabeth Warren, who will be campaigning with Democrat Senate candidate Natalie Tenant in coal-rich West Virginia, has not only fought for President Obama’s war on coal, but as an attorney, Warren actually represented a firm that was trying to deny health benefits to coal miners. Among Warren’s opponents in the case were the Clinton Administration, current-AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and none other than Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who Tenant is running to replace. Rockefeller said at the time Warren’s client could leave coal miner retirees “out in the cold.”

Wonder how Natalie Tenant feels about her liberal teammate’s role in fighting to deny coal miners their health benefits. The full 2012 Boston Globe story here.

Warren also helped write a petition to the US Supreme Court for LTV Steel in the 1990s, assisting the former industrial conglomerate in its fight against a congressional requirement that it pay millions of dollars into a fund for its retired coal miners’ health care. …

The Coal Act was passed in 1992, to finance a fund for the long-term health care of retired mine workers and their families.

The case involved the question of whether LTV, which was emerging from bankruptcy when the Coal Act took effect in 1993, could be forced to pay out more money after its bankruptcy was completed. Warren argued that the company’s obligations under the Coal Act should have been addressed as part of the bankruptcy. …

[O]pponents, including the Clinton administration, argued that LTV and other companies challenging the statute were trying to take advantage of the bankruptcy laws to avoid their responsibility. And mine workers and their advocates also argued that if LTV or any other company tried to avoid paying into the Coal Act fund, the entire fund could collapse.

“No exception should be made to this act,” Richard Trumka, then president of the United Mine Workers, told a congressional panel in 1993. “When it unravels, you will have roughly 200,000 miners and beneficiaries out there that will lose their health care.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, of West Virginia, made a similar argument, telling the panel that retirees, whose average age was 77, could be left “out in the cold” if firms won any exemptions from the law.