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 Plan) 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.