UMWA in Action
UMWA commits to do “whatever it takes" to defend Patriot beneficiaries
August 28, 2012
For immediate release?:
Evansville, Ind. – United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts today told thousands of members and supporters that the union will do “whatever it takes” to protect the benefits of active workers, retirees and their families in the face of the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Patriot Coal.
“This union has never backed away from a fight to preserve what our members and retirees have earned, and we’re not going back away now,” Roberts said during a mass meeting held at The Centre in Evansville. “Patriot is a company that was set up to fail so that two of the biggest coal operators, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, could try to walk away from their contractual obligations. We will not stand idly by and watch our members pay the price for corporate greed.”
In 2005, Arch Coal spun off its union operations in West Virginia–along with the long-term obligations that went with them–into a company called Magnum Coal. Eighteen months later, Peabody Energy spun off all of its operations east of the Mississippi where its workers were represented by the UMWA, as well as a few other operations, into Patriot. Included in that spin-off were Peabody’s pension and long-term health care obligations to its retirees. The two spin-offs then merged, resulting in a weaker Patriot Coal with large legacy obligations and below-market coal contracts in the face of an industry-wide recession.
About 2,000 active UMWA members work at Patriot operations, about half of the company’s hourly employees. More than 10,000 retirees receive their health care from Patriot. In all, more than 22,000 active members, retirees and their dependents receive health care benefits from Patriot.
“Patriot has already indicated that they intend to use the bankruptcy process to seek significant concessions,” Roberts said. “This meeting today is the kick-off of what we anticipate will be a long-term campaign to fight for fairness at Patriot.”
United Mine Workers