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Miners protest Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy strategy

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson UMW President Cecil Roberts speaks to hundreds of union members and supporters at Patriot Coal headquarters in Putnam County.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson
UMW President Cecil Roberts speaks to hundreds of union members and supporters at Patriot Coal headquarters in Putnam County.

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — More than 1,000 miners and supporters gathered in front of Patriot Coal’s headquarters in Putnam County on Monday afternoon to protest the company’s continuing efforts to cancel union contracts and avoid paying pensions and health benefits to retired miners.

“We are here for one reason — to make the company hear our voice,” said Joe Carter, vice president of United Mine Workers of America District 17, based in Charleston.

On Aug. 3, the UMW filed an objection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia, opposing Patriot’s efforts to cancel union contracts and to avoid paying benefits to retired coal miners.

Patriot has been working to sell some of its most valuable assets to Blackhawk Mining, based in Lexington, Kentucky. Patriot supports a deal with Blackhawk Mining that would allow union contacts and retiree benefits to be dismissed. Blackhawk could then rehire employees laid off by Patriot, according to its bankruptcy filing.

The UMW believes rejecting union contracts is not necessary for Blackhawk to restructure Patriot’s mining operations.

Dan Kane, secretary treasurer of UMW District 17, said current federal “bankruptcy laws need to get tossed out and rewritten. The CEOs, investors and lawyers all get paid. But the workers get sent away with cents on the dollar (owed to them) or nothing…

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