Trustees of the deficit-plagued United Mine Workers health fund have refused to restore subsidies of about 50 coalfield clinics that are dependent on the money for survival, according to their officials.
Meanwhile, striking coal miners from West Virginia announced they will march on Washington Friday to protest other medical benefit cutback to miners and their families.
The UMW has sanctioned neither the strikes, which have idled about 60,000 Appalachian miners in recent days, nor the march, which is expected to attract about 1,000 protesters. UMW Vice President-elect Sam Church yesterday urged the marches to "keep their demonstration peaceful and to leave their shotguns home.
UMW health funds trustees cut medical benefits last month than $24 million by December, in apart because production royalties than finance the funds are dwindling as a result of continuing wildcat strikes.
Coal operators have refused a request by UMW President Arnold Miller to transfer pension royalties to the health funds, contending that real-location would jeopardize retirement funds and condone the strikes.
The funds' trustees, arguing that their hands were tied, last month revoked the "retainers" under which coalfield clinics have gotten more than $100 million over the past five years and ordered miners to pay up to $500 a year for previously free medical services.
In their letter to the clinic operators, who last week asked for reinstatement of the subsidies, the trustees said the cutoff was necessary to keep the health funds from collapsing.
"Had we not acted when we did," they said, "the entire program would be jeopardized."
The Health funds have more than 8000,000 beneficiaries. The clinics, some of which date back about 25 years, serve about 500,000 people, two-thirds of whom are union beneficiaries. Some clinics serve remote mountain areas without other nearby medical facilities.