UMWA rally: Support health care for miners & retirees | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

UMWA rally: Support health care for miners & retirees

KFTC members are expected to join thousands of members and supporters of the United Mine Workers of America at a rally tomorrow in Charleston, WV. The rally supports health care for active and retired miners, and focuses attention on Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal who are trying to renege on commitments to retired miners and their families.

If you'd like to participate, the rally starts at the Charleston Civic Center at 10 a.m. EDT.

Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody Energy in 2007, with approximately 43 percent of Peabody’s pension and health care liabilities, but just 11 percent of its productive assets – a structure described as "designed to fail." Patriot also later assumed pension and health care obligations for retired union miners who had worked for Arch Coal by buying Arch's Magnum Coal subsidiary (Arch had done the same thing – put all of its union operations into one subsidiary without adequate assets or cash flow to cover its obligations).

That planned failure came to be when Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July 2012.

"The executives at Peabody, Arch and Patriot thought they could pull a fast one by setting up companies that were designed to fail, declaring bankruptcy, all so they could evade their health care responsibilities to retired miners while slashing the wages and benefits of active workers," said UMWA President Cecil Roberts.

Ninety percent of the more 10,000 retirees and surviving spouses Patriot is responsible for never worked for Patriot, but worked for Peabody or Arch instead, including many former Peabody employees in western Kentucky. Patriot officials have said they want to use the bankruptcy to shed $1 billion of their obligations to these workers and families.

Patriot Coal's PAC gave $7,000 to U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie in the 2011-12 election cycle, $4,500 to Hal Rogers, $3,500 to Ed Whitfield and $2,000 each to Andy Barr and Mitch McConnell, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Currently, Patriot Coal has underground mining operations in Henderson and Union counties in western Kentucky. Patriot also made news late last year when it announced it would end all mountaintop removal operations in Central Appalachia in a court settlement with several environmental groups in West Virginia.

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Comments

Positions of authority, millions of dollars of personal wealth, slick public relations consultants, $1,000 per hour lawyers, privilege and power cannot conceal the true purpose of this bankruptcy. The loss of healthcare for UMWA retirees starts on a sad level which is the mine-worker's widow down at the nursing home with no other way to pay, then graduates to a sadder level with the mine-worker or their spouse who has a terminal illness. The greatest injustice of all is the mine-worker who did every thing that was asked, played by the rules, went to work every day for 20 to 30 years, breathing coal dust, contributing to corporate profit, and now has black lung or some other mine related health problem with no healthcare.  

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