The following "open letter" was sent by a retired miner to the AFL-CIO and to a variety of labor and other publications.
To: CEO/Director/Chairman of the Board, of Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Patriot Coal
From: A UMWA Retiree
I am writing this letter because of the Patriot Coal bankruptcy proceedings taking place at the Federal courthouse in Saint Louis, Missouri. I am writing this letter on behalf of the thousands of UMWA retirees who sacrificed their bodies to build a billion dollar company, on behalf of the thousands of UMWA retirees and their families who depend on their pensions and healthcare to live, on behalf of the more than 4,000 active UMWA employees at Patriot Coal whose jobs are threatened, on behalf of the coal miner spouses who wait and worry that their loved ones will not return to them due to a mining accident or disaster, on behalf of the mine workers who fought, suffered, and died at the battle of Blair Mountain, and the Ludow, Colo., massacre, on behalf of the mine workers at Piston and countless other labor struggles.
These struggles have driven our members to their knees in prayer many times because the wisdom of man failed leaving us with nowhere else to go. These struggles have provided us with a tremendous strength and a priceless heritage.
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 mineworker'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 mineworker 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.
I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul. Mark 8:36 spells out consequences; "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul"? Martin Luther King had it right when he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." This is evidenced by the demise of the corporations involved in the labor struggles I mentioned, as well as the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency responsible for the inhumanity therein. Your epiphanous moment; the UMWA is engaged in another struggle.
Photo: Cecil Roberts and other UMWA members, several of whom were black lung victims, engage in civil disobedience, arrested for sitting in at the coal company office. Tony Pecinovsky/PW