The UMWA Health and Retirement Funds (Funds) provides pension and health benefits to coal miners based on the eligibility requirements under Article XX of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (Wage Agreement). The Wage Agreement is a contract negotiated by the United Mine Workers of America International Union (UMWA) and the Bituminous Coal Operators’ Association (BCOA). The Trustees of the Funds do not participate in the contract negotiations; the Trustees’ function is to administer Article XX of the contract signed by the UMWA and the BCOA.
Coal industry employers who sign a Wage Agreement are required to provide health benefits coverage to their employees and eligible pensioners based on the terms of the Wage Agreement’s Employer Benefit Plan. Article XX, Section (e) of the Wage Agreement states that disputes arising under this agreement with regard to the Employer benefit plan shall be referred to the Trustees. . . . In the event the Trustees decide such dispute, such decision of the Trustees shall be final and binding on the parties. Therefore, a Resolution of Dispute (ROD) is a request to the Trustees of the Funds to review and issue an opinion as to whether an employer has appropriately administered benefits under the terms of the employer’s benefit plan. Accordingly, the purpose of the ROD procedure is to assure that benefits provided by coal employers are consistent with each other and follow the practices of the Funds. Furthermore, when reviewing a dispute, prior ROD opinions are used by the Trustees as precedent.
RODs were first reviewed under the Wage Agreement of 1978 pursuant to Article IX of the 1950 Benefit Plan and Trust and under the authority of an exemption granted by the U.S. Department of Labor. All subsequent Wage Agreements–1981, 1984, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2007, and 2011–address the Trustees’ jurisdiction to review RODs under Article XX, Section (e). The health benefit plans administered by signatory coal employers (the Employer Benefit Plan) and the health benefit plans administered by the Funds (the UMWA Combined Benefit Plan, the UMWA 1992 Benefit Plan, the UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan, and the UMWA Prefunded Benefit Fund) are similar plans.
Under the 1978, 1981, 1984 and 1988 Wage Agreements, the Trustees reviewed disputes submitted by an employee or pensioner whose employer was signatory to the standard Wage Agreement. Starting with the 1993 Wage Agreement, the Trustees have jurisdiction to review disputes concerning employers who are members of the UMWA-BCOA ROD Trust. In addition, the Trustees also review disputes concerning pensioners who are receiving coverage from their last employer under the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (Coal Act).
Prior to the current ROD format, which, as noted above, was established under the 1978 Wage Agreement, the Trustees addressed questions concerning the Funds’ policies, procedures and benefit programs in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format. The Trustees’ authority to determine questions of coverage and eligibility arising under the pension and health benefit plans they administer is addressed within each plan.
Article II -Eligibility – of the Coal Act Employer Benefit Plan provides that “the persons eligible to receive the health benefits pursuant to Article III [of the Coal Act Employer Benefit Plan] are those individuals who are entitled to receive such benefits under section 9711 of the Internal Revenue Code, subject to the eligibility provisions of the Employer Plan in effect on February 1, 1993, and to all other provisions of this Plan.” The Employer Plan in effect on February 1, 1993, was the 1988 Employer Benefit Plan.
The Trustees will review disputes involving employees or pensioners and their surviving spouses, of employers who have contributed to the UMWA-BCOA ROD Trust. To view the list of contributors to the UMWA-BCOA ROD Trust click here. A UMWA-BCOA ROD Trust employer may also file a ROD. The Trustees will also review disputes concerning pensioners and their surviving spouses who are eligible to receive coverage from their last employer under the Coal Act. A Coal Act employer may also file a ROD. In general, a pensioner whose pension effective date is October 1, 1994, or earlier may be covered under the Coal Act.
To File a ROD, the employee or pensioner should contact his or her local UMWA representative (Click here for a list of UMWA Offices). Next, the UMWA representative will send the ROD to the Funds. The Funds’ Manager of Conflict Resolution will contact either the representative or the complainant to determine whether the complainant has, as required, first appealed the issue in dispute to the coal company’s Plan Administrator. If the Plan Administrator has reviewed the dispute and the issue has not been resolved, the Trustees will then proceed with their review. After the Trustees have reviewed the dispute and issued a decision, the complainant and respondent receive copies of the decision. Article XX, Section(e)(5) of the Wage Agreement states that “such decision of the Trustees shall be final and binding on the parties.”
The Board of Trustees for the UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan currently reviews disputes under the Wage Agreements. The Board of Trustees for the UMWA 1992 Benefit Plan currently reviews disputes under the Coal Act. Each board is comprised of four Trustees: two representing the UMWA and two representing the BCOA. If the Trustees deadlock on a ROD, the ROD is sent to an arbitrator.
Article XX, Section (e)(5) of the Wage Agreement states that, “such dispute shall be referred to a permanent three-member arbitration panel selected by mutual agreement of the UMWA and the BCOA and maintained by the Trustees. A dispute referred in this manner shall be decided by one member of the arbitration panel, determined on a rotating basis, whose decision shall be final and binding on the parties. Precedent under the resolution of disputes mechanism previously in place shall remain in effect, and the panel shall be required to cooperate to assure the consistent interpretation of provisions under the Employer Plans under this Article.”
Each ROD opinion is given a number. Most ROD opinions have a prefix which indicates the Wage Agreement under which they were decided. For example, ROD 84-390 indicates that the ROD was decided under the 1984 Wage Agreement while ROD 88-042 was decided under the 1988 Wage Agreement. The exceptions are the following: RODs under the 1978 Agreement do not have a prefix; therefore, ROD 227 indicates that the ROD was decided under the 1978 Wage Agreement. The other exception is RODs that are decided under the Coal Act. A ROD with the prefix “CA”–for example, CA-020–indicates that the ROD was decided under the Coal Act. Q&A’s (for definition see ROD History) with a prefix of ’81’ address health issues. All other Q&A’s address eligibility issues.
You can search for a ROD in the following ways: