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Fight Goes on at Peabody/Patriot Coal

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CWA members stand with UMWA miners in fight for fairness at Peabody/Patriot.

The United Mine Workers is appealing the decision of a federal bankruptcy judge that approved Patriot Coal Corp.'s plan to throw out its collective bargaining agreements and slash retiree benefits. Patriot now has suspended contract negotiations.

The ruling affects 23,000 retired miners and their families who face the loss of their health care benefits. UMWA miners and retirees worked at Peabody and Arch operations in Kentucky and West Virginia, which each spun off part of their businesses to form Patriot.

Unions and progressive allies have been standing with the UMWA miners, in civil disobedience, non-violent protest and other actions at Peabody/Patriot Coal headquarters in St. Louis, and in Charleston, W.Va., and Henderson, Ky. CWA President Larry Cohen was arrested in St. Louis, and hundreds of CWA members have joined the protests.

It's one of the worst examples of corporate greed yet.

Despite its profitability, Peabody created Patriot Coal in 2007 and gave that company 11 percent of its assets, 43 percent of its retiree liability and some underwater coal contracts, the UMWA said. Some 90 percent of retirees whose benefits will be slashed never worked for Patriot. Then, in 2008, Patriot bought Arch-spinoff Magnum Coal, and Arch saddled that company with 12 percent of its assets and 96 percent of its retiree health-care liabilities.

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