Miners arrested in protest against coal company

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ST. LOUIS - Nine miners, including their union's president, were arrested in protests against the nation's largest coal company here today.

"I didn't come here today as the President of your union. I came here as a representative of our retirees and our widows, " United Mine Workers' of America (UMWA) international president, Cecil. Roberts, told over 1,000 miners, union supporters, community and faith leaders, as they rallied just steps away from the St. Louis Federal Court House here January 29.

The arrests took place after a march that followed the rally when those arrested took part in a civil disobedience action.

According to the union, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal - the nation's largest coal companies - created the spin-off company, Patriot Coal, in a scheme to rob thousands of union members and beneficiaries of their pensions and health care benefits.

Patriot Coal filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2012.

In 2007, Peabody Energy created Patriot Coal, and in 2008 Patriot bought Magnum, a spin-off of Arch Coal. Accumulatively, Patriot Coal inherited over $1 billion in retiree pension and health care obligations from Peabody and Arch.

Patriot Coal now wants to be released from its pension and retirement obligations covering more than 20,000 UMWA retirees and beneficiaries in West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.

And it was from out of the mines and towns in those states that miners and their supporters came here today, some in wheelchairs and others wearing the oxygen masks that give black lung disease victims the ability to breathe, a few minutes at a time.

Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are both headquartered in St. Louis and about 50 percent of Patriot's unionized retirees live in the Illinois Basin coalfields.

The bankruptcy case was moved to St. Louis last November.

According to Roberts, "This is nothing but a scheme to rob and steal from us, to take our benefits, benefits we've already paid for."

"What we have here is a company reneging on its promises."

"This is just a scam by Peabody. They are trying to bamboozle us," Roberts continued. "They may have $1,000 an-hour attorneys, but they've got $1 an-hour morals."

According to fairnessatpatriot.org - a website set-up by the union - "Over 90 percent of the retirees Patriot provides benefits for today never worked a single day for Patriot."

"We believe this company was established to fail, and that the spin-offs of Patriot and Magnum were fraudulent transactions."

Lew Moye, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), called Patriot's actions "despicable and criminal."

UMWA international secretary-treasurer, Daniel Kane, told the assembled union members, "There are two groups of people in this world: those who earn their living by what they do, and those who earn a living by what others do."

He said the pension and health care obligations owed to mineworkers "aren't just a promise. You've already paid for them."

According to UMWA District 12 vice president, Steve Earle, "As far as they are concerned, we are expendable labor - without rights, without benefits."

District 17 vice president, Joe Carter, agreed and added, "They want to throw us aside like a piece of trash."

Missouri state representative, Karla May, Dem.-84, a member of the Communications' Workers of America, Local 6300, said, "I stand with you. We know their real goal isn't just to get rid of your health care and benefits. We know their real goal is to destroy all unions."

May, who is also a member of CBTU, also told the assembled union members about attempts "here in Missouri, and across the country, to impose so-called right-to-work, which would weaken all unions."

Roberts closed the rally with a childhood story. He said he had heard the old Biblical passage, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven," but never quite knew what it meant "until now."

He added, "I know what it means. There will be justice done. We'll be judged by how we treat the least among us."

He concluded, "Our pensioners, our widowers, they are just as good - if not better - than those millionaires and billionaires. They deserve dignity and respect. And we will fight for our members and their families in the courts, in the coalfields and in the streets of St. Louis."

After the rally union members marched through downtown St. Louis to Peabody Energy's headquarters where nine UMWA members and Roberts were arrested as they peacefully sat in at the company building.

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.

 

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  • unions were made to keep people honest and give fair wages! Hoffa died for a reason! Fair labor, instead of the Moffia controlling the trade cargo and strong arming the locals! You men also put in harms way! You deserve every promise you are given I am not a democrat I am a true believer that you deserve the rights that you paid for! What's the purpose for paying union dues? Are they not meant to help and protect you? Don't you go thru negotiations to barder insurance and wages and have to compromise? I think this is someone taking money and bailing!

    Posted by kelly, 06/19/2013 12:09am (1 year ago)

  • fight union fight and get a lawyer on it. Sounds like coal company has been stealing your money. Stealing is a crime

    Posted by annette bailey, 02/08/2013 10:18am (2 years ago)

  • Bless Cecil Roberts. He is the tireless voice of the people. What the corporations are doing to the UMWA is exactly what they are trying to do to the rest of us. I wish I could have been there to be arrested with them. If Mother Jones could have risen from her grave in Mt. Olive she'd have been right there with the UMWA scolding those greedy SOB's just like she did when she was alive. This story is heartbreaking...

    Posted by James K. Goltz, 02/08/2013 7:24am (2 years ago)

  • It is a sad truth about modern America when people who earn huge salaries running corporations into the ground use their skills scheming to deny retiree's and their widows pensions paid for over entire working lifetimes. This type of corporate values system is wrong, un-american, unethical and illustrates that in many cases highly paid corporate leaders of today are free to be self-serving cheats. The savvy business leaders who built many corporations in the first place were most often ethical members of the larger community. It appears that to many American business leaders reducing "We the People" to commodity status is the direction our country needs to take. Running banks into the ground resulted in big bonuses to their leaders, Hostess leaders got bonuses running it into the ground. Didn't "America" use to oppose fascism.......America used to be about doing what is right for our people and our communities. We in America are closer to fascism today than ever in American history. We need corporations with leaders who have morals, ethics, business savvy and who are patriots. They are good for America!

    Posted by briankasher@gmail.com, 02/08/2013 6:16am (2 years ago)

  • you guys are brave and "right on" - I am happy to join you at the next protest - Peabody and Arch are playing shell games with your lives, pension, and health...we are all in the struggle is ONE....

    Posted by diana, 02/07/2013 10:06pm (2 years ago)

  • Fight! It's the only way workers can win in this unfair system.

    Wisconsin Steelworkers in Chicago won a similar fight against their employers, International Harvester, now Navistar. Harvester tried to dump pensions for 2,700 workers by "selling" Wisconsin Steel to people with no capital who had only 20 employees (Envirodyne). Then Harvester forced Wisconsin Steel into bankruptcy. And there was no one to pay the pensions.

    That story is covered in the book I wrote about Frank Lumpkin, Always Bring A Crowd. The steelworkers won two big settlements. Harvester did not get away with it! A lot of union and community people helped the steelworkers win.

    I feel confident that the miners can win with support by the whole labor movement.

    Posted by Beatrice Lumpkin, 02/07/2013 4:48pm (2 years ago)

  • Patriot Coal? That's funny. Is this the kind of patriotism that perpetually threatens workers' rights by keeping them in financial quicksand?

    Posted by revolution123, 02/07/2013 3:17pm (2 years ago)

  • I wish I had the resources to travel and stand in solidarity with you. Know that where ever I am I am on your side.

    Posted by Jim Olson, 02/07/2013 1:16pm (2 years ago)

  • Ahhh! The untrammelled delights of imperialist vulture capitalism!!

    Posted by Billy, 02/06/2013 5:25pm (2 years ago)

  • I was proud to stand with these folks.

    Posted by garyro, 02/05/2013 3:08pm (2 years ago)

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