4 April, 2013The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) rallied against Patriot Coal on 1 April for miner pensions and benefits in Charleston, mobilizing 10,000 activists onto the street.
On 1 April thousands gathered at the Charleston Civic Centre, in West Virginia, for a massive rally organized by the UMWA as part of its “Fairness at Patriot” campaign. The campaign focuses on the health care, wages and working conditions of coal miners.
The crowd marched to the Patriot Coal local office where 16 labour leaders, clergy and UMWA members were arrested for refusing to move off the office tower’s steps during a non-violent protest. The arrested included Cecil Roberts, UMWA International President, and Dan Kane, UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer.
In June of 2012, Patriot filed for reorganization under U.S. bankruptcy law. The company is seeking court approval to drastically reduce or eliminate health care coverage for retired miners, and to make severe cutbacks in the wages, health care, pensions and working conditions of active mine workers.
“This is a crime,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “We’ve been robbed, tricked and lied to. This cannot stand – and with thousands of us from all over the country marching today and keeping us this fight tomorrow, it will not stand.”
The UMWA has staged a number of protests in St. Louis, resulting in many arrests, and is running an ad campaign aimed at pressuring Patriot Coal to abandon plans for shedding liability for pensions and health care benefits. Thousands of retired miners and their families would be affected by that plan.
Patriot Coal was created by Peabody Energy in 2007 with the specific purpose of allowing Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to shed its long-term health care obligations to its retirees and their families. Saddled with too much debt and too little production to keep pace with its debt load, Patriot is seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Peabody Energy and Arch Coal have made hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years while Patriot has lost millions. IndustriALL supports UMWA’s calls to make Peabody and Arch accept their share of the obligations to those who literally put their lives and their health on the line every day they go to work.