Patriot Coal Co. was formed Oct. 31, 2007, when Peabody Energy shed all of its eastern operations, where most workers were represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Included in that spin off were many of Peabody’s long term health care obligations to its retirees.
A year and a half before Patriot was created, Arch Coal spun off its union mines in West Virginia along with the long term obligations that went with them into a company called Magnum Coal. The result was two new coal companies, each with a large amount of long term financial obligations and insufficient production capability to pay for them.
On July 23, 2008 Patriot acquired Magnum and with it, health care obligations for another 1,294 retirees. Patriot Coal has since filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and is trying to cheat 10,000 retirees out of the health care they were promised all of their working lives.
Patriot Coal was a scheme by Peabody and Arch Coal to shed their obligations under the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement to maintain healthcare benefits for active employees and their families, as well as retirees their dependents and surviving spouses. These companies promised, in contract after contract, to provide those benefits, but now via Patriot, they intend to rid themselves of these obligations.
I attended a rally and marched with thousands of UMWA members and supporters on Apr. 1, 2013. Faith leaders and elected officials joined thousands of us marching to the offices of Patriot Coal in downtown Charleston, WV. Sixteen labor leaders, clergy and UMWA members were arrested during a non-violent protest in front of Patriot’s headquarters.
The elected officials who spoke at the rally were WV Senators, Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin. WV Congressman Nick Rahall. WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and WV Sec. of State Natalie Tennant.
It was during this rally that I heard of the Coal Accountability and Retired Employee or CARE Act. This Bill introduced by Senator Rockefeller is co- sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) OH, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) WV, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) MA. Congressman Nick Rahall also expressed his support for this Bill.
My question is, will the Republicans elected to congress from our area, who speak of how coal friendly they are, such as Cong. David McKinley, Cong. Bill Johnson (OH) and Cong. Shelley Moore Capito (WV) also support this legislation, and stop Peabody and Arch Coal from stealing healthcare benefits from 10,000 retirees, widows, and orphans? Or are they just friends of coal companies, not coal miners?