The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 26, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don’t let corporations avoid paying pensions

Recently in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, I saw the editorial that had appeared in The Register-Herald earlier concerning the bankruptcy court ruling in St. Louis that allowed the obviously spun-off-to-fail Patriot Coal Co. to evade the pension payments and benefit that its parent companies had incurred in what passes for “good faith.”

I agree with the points made by the writer in this thoughtful editorial and commend his willingness to speak out on the subject. As the son of a coal miner who never got to collect his pension because of an early death from black lung disease, I am completely aghast at the inhumanity of companies who subject their employees to the stressful and dangerous conditions of coal mining and feel no obligation to give these miners and their families their rightful dues in their retirement years, if they survive to enjoy them.

Before allowing Patriot Coal to pay its stockholders and highly-paid executives, the judge should put that money in escrow to finance its legitimate retirement-pay obligations to the workers who risked life, limb and health in order to enrich the management and stockholders.

Despite all of the brouhaha and general bad-mouthing in some of the press, and the Congress about Social Security not being able to continue to fund its promised benefits 20 to 30 years hence, I don’t believe that the U.S. government will declare bankruptcy and thereby escape its financial obligations to its citizens. Because we the people are responsible for the government and the folks who run it serve at our pleasure. We can easily clean our political house at the next election, throwing the bums out and electing people who are capable of fulfilling those lawful obligations. Unfortunately, we don’t have such power over corporations and their promises to those who work for them. I think that our elected leaders should make it the law of the land that all pension funds promised by corporations be paid to a government agency designed to manage corporate pensions as the funds are accumulated during a worker’s career and that the government agency has the power to make sure that the pension fund remains solvent at the level contracted between employer and employee.  

Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

Al Duba


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