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Hundreds of UMWA members rally at U. S. Courthouse, Peabody headquarters

January 29, 2013
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[ST. LOUIS]  More than 750 members and supporters of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) rallied in front of the United States Courthouse then marched to the headquarters of Peabody Energy here today, in protest of a long-term scheme to strip thousands of active and retired coal miners, their dependents and widows of critically-needed health care and other earned benefits.

The march and rally coincided with the first hearing in St. Louis of Patriot Coal’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case in the U. S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri. Patriot was spun off from Peabody in 2007, and has already identified retiree health care obligations as “unsustainable” in its future plans. Ninety percent of the retirees Patriot is responsible for never worked for Patriot, but worked for Peabody and Arch Coal instead.

“Thousands of retirees across the coalfields of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia are wondering this morning if they will soon have to choose between paying the mortgage or getting needed medications, ” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “Peabody dumped its health care obligations to these people without a second thought, and now they’re crowing about it.

“Peabody talks about the billions it saved when it dumped these obligations,” Roberts said. “Some of those ‘savings’ are here with us today. They are the retirees with black lung who need oxygen every minute. They are the widows with cancer whose needed medications are at risk. They are the people living on fixed incomes who will have to choose between eating or getting their medicine.

“Peabody, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal may be proud of the financial con-game they’re playing on these retirees to get out of decades of promises and obligations,” Roberts said. “But the truth is that this is a sickening display of corporate greed that has overstepped the boundaries of decency. In an America where there are few boundaries for corporations, that’s saying something.

Roberts promised more rallies and marches in the future. “We are here to let the bankruptcy court know that we care about what happens. And we’re letting Patriot, Peabody and Arch know that we are not going to rest until our active and retired members don’t have to lay sleepless at night wondering if they can survive the next week, the next month, the next year. We will be back, again and again, to make sure that message gets heard.”


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