14 February, 2013The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is vehemently protesting against Peabody Energy’s attempts to deny pension and health care benefits for about 20,000 retired miners and dependents.
In July 2012, Patriot Coal, the company Peabody spun off in November 2007, filed for bankruptcy with executives arguing it could no longer provide health care to retired miners. Many believe Patriot was set up to fail so that benefits of workers could be stripped away.
Ten people, including UMWA Secretary Treasurer Dan Kane, were arrested on 13 February 2013 during a protest of over 1000 people outside the Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
It was the second protest in two weeks that the UMWA organized. UMWA President Cecil Roberts was among 10 other members who werearrested during an earlier protest on 29 January 2013. The protests were peaceful, and so were the arrests.
Patriot executives argue that because the company is bankrupt, they shouldn't have to provide health care to retired miners. UMWA members said they were promised health care benefits in exchange for a lifetime of hazardous work.
The union said that about 10,000 retirees and an equalnumber of dependents, predominantly from West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, could lose pensions and health care benefits through Patriot Coal's bankruptcy.
"We will be returning to St. Louis again, and again, and again, until Peabody and Arch Coal decide that they're going to live up to the obligations that they made to retired coal miners, they're descendants, and their widows," said Phil Smith, UMWA Communications Director.
IndustriALL Global Union sent a letter of solidarity to UMWA. “IndustriALL Global Union pledges solidarity with you in your hour of need and will not allow such shameful behavior to go unchallenged,” writes, Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL.