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Thousands Protest at Peabody HQ in St. Louis

date: 
June 17, 2013
For immediate release?: 
 

 

Mining operations that were wholly-owned and controlled by Peabody Energy negotiated and signed numerous agreements promising lifetime health care for retired mine workers and their families.  In 2007, however, Peabody spun off Patriot Coal, assigning the new company 43 percent of its retiree health care liabilities and just 11 per cent of its assets.  In 2008, Patriot also acquired the liabilities of Magnum Coal Company.

Patriot, which has been described as "designed to fail" by Temple University Finance Professor Bruce Rader, was unable to operate with these liabilities and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.  Last month, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kathy Surratt-States granted Patriot's request to effectively eliminate health care for retired miners and their families, and to impose severe cuts in wages, benefits, and working conditions for active miners.

Patriot is able to impose these cutbacks on July 1. UMWA representatives are currently in negotiations with Patriot executives, seeking alternatives to the company's harsh and unnecessary demands.

"We're doing all we can to find solutions that will allow Patriot to keep operating while respecting the security and safety of our active and retired members," said Roberts. "But we all know that the resources needed to really solve these problems are piled up in the corporate coffers of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.  Those two companies made billions from the sweat and hard work of our members, and if these executives think we're going to sit idle while they abandon their promises and put our members at risk - well, then they don't really know or understand the United Mine Workers of America."

A lawsuit on behalf of UMWA members, filed in West Virginia, charges that Peabody, Arch and Patriot violated the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by scheming to eliminate contractually-guaranteed lifetime health care benefits for retirees.  The union is also working with members of Congress from both parties to pursue legislative remedies.

The UMWA is also continuing a public education campaign, with a "Peabody Lied" television advertisement currently running in St. Louis and Evansville, Illinois.

UMWA members and family members arrested today include:

·         James Jarrell, UMWA Local Union 9177

·         Mike Browning, UMWA Local Union 9177

·         Joe Hicks, UMWA Local Union 5958

·         William 'Sonny' Smith, UMWA Local Union 2161

·         Carol Smith (spouse of William Smith)

·         Larry Spencer, UMWA Local Union 2397

·         Jimmy Thomas, UMWA Local Union 1928

·         Jerry Stallard, UMWA Local Union 2274

·         Jeff Samek, UMWA Local Union 2300

·         Tom Mills, UMWA Local Union 2300.

Additional information about the UMWA campaign to stand up for active and retired miners is at FairnessAtPatriot.org.

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