UMWA, Peabody reach agreement to secure 2016 funding for Patriot retirees’ health care

[TRIANGLE, VA] The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and Peabody Energy announced today that they have reached an agreement that will provide for a payment by Peabody of up to $75 million over the next 10 months to help provide health care benefits for retirees affected by the Patriot Coal bankruptcy of 2012-13.

Peabody has agreed to pay $7.5 million per month beginning in January into the Patriot Retirees VEBA, a Voluntary Employees Beneficial Association established in 2013 to administer retirees’ health care benefits. The payments will continue until October 2016, unless legislation passes sooner in Congress that would put those retirees’ health care under the umbrella of the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds.

There are some 12,000 retirees, dependents and widows covered by the Patriot VEBA, primarily living in West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

“I am pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “The second bankruptcy of Patriot Coal in 2015 and the breakup of that company into separate entities put the initial agreement providing funding for the VEBA in jeopardy. With this new agreement, we have been able to provide a measure of security for these retirees, their dependents and widows.”

“These retirees did everything asked of them, and now through no fault of their own find their health care benefits under threat,” Roberts said. “This agreement will help, but is by no means a permanent fix to this problem.

“We need Congress to live up to the promise made by Harry Truman in the White House nearly 70 years ago to our nation’s miners – and repeatedly confirmed by Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses since – that if miners would provide the resource to make America the most powerful nation on earth, they would receive retirement security for the rest of their lives.”

“It is time to secure that promise once and for all,” Roberts said.