Aug 22, 2013
UMWA members who work at Patriot Coal operations in West Virginia and Kentucky ratified a settlement with the company that significantly improves the terms and conditions of employment ordered by a federal bankruptcy judge last May.
The final vote was 85 percent in favor to 15 percent opposed.
"The membership has made it clear that they are willing to do their part to keep Patriot operating, keep their jobs and ensure that thousands of retirees continue getting the health care they depend on and deserve," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "This has been a difficult and uncertain year for our members. But I believe that in the end, they understood that we had done a lot to improve what the judge had ordered. They also understood all that was at stake and resolved to move forward in a positive way. But as we work to keep Patriot a viable company into the future, we have not forgotten how we got here and who is responsible. With this agreement, we have foiled the schemes of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal by continuing to both provide health care for retirees and maintain union jobs at these mines."
Roberts noted that the settlement with Patriot does not provide enough resources to fulfill the promise of lifetime health care benefits that Peabody and Arch agreed to provide to thousands of retirees from those companies.
Peabody had 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. The overwhelming majority, some 90 percent, of retirees whose retiree health care will be cut 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.
"We are now able to turn our full attention to securing the lifetime health care benefits Peabody and Arch promised these retirees," Roberts said. "If those companies thought our public effort to highlight their poor corporate citizenship was over, they will quickly find out otherwise."
CWA members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their UMWA brothers and sisters through this fight, joining rallies in St. Louis, West Virginia and Kentucky to pressure Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to meet their responsibilities to retired miners and their families. CWA intends on continuing to hold Peabody and Arch accountable.