Alabama Bankruptcy Court Throws out Mission Coal Contract, Retiree Health Care and Pension Contributions for Retirees


MARCH 2, 2019

[BIRMINGHAM, ALA.]  Tamara O. Mitchell, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, yesterday ruled that bankrupt Mission Coal Company could renege on its collective bargaining agreement with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and end retiree health care and pension contributions.

Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) issued the following statement regarding this decision:

“This decision is very disappointing but not unexpected. American bankruptcy laws are written so that judges will make these decisions every time. The big banks and Wall Street investors – who wouldn’t recognize a coal mine if they fell into one – get all the money and the workers are left with nothing.

“It doesn’t matter that without the workers there would be no coal to sell, no income to the owners, no profit, no nothing. It doesn’t matter that the previous generations of miners, their dependents and widows will be forced to make cruel choices about buying the medicines they need to stay alive or buy food. All that matters in the court’s eyes is that the Wall Street investors get paid and the very executives who drove the company into bankruptcy get bonuses.

“But at the end of the day, it does not matter what the court rules. We will never stop in our fight to preserve health care and pensions for retirees and widows, and whoever ends up buying the Oak Grove mine in Alabama and the Pinnacle mine in West Virginia should understand that those mines will not operate without a UMWA contract.

“I want our active members who are working at the Oak Grove mine to know that the current collective bargaining agreement is still in place at this time. We will work to negotiate a new one when there is a new owner for the mine.

“We are working with our allies in Congress to pass House Resolution (HR) 934, the Health Benefits for Miners Act of 2019, and Senate Bill 27, the American Miners Act. These bills will put Mission Coal retirees’ health care under the umbrella of the UMWA Health and Retirement funds and will provide lifetime coverage. I urge all UMWA members, families, friends and community leaders to call their members of Congress and ask for their support for these bills.

“This is not the end of this process for all those affected by this bankruptcy. This is just another marker on the path of our fight for justice at Oak Grove and Pinnacle. We will prevail in the end because we will never give up our fight.”