Target: Judge Kathy Surratt-States
Goal: Force Patriot Coal to pay union coalminers’ health benefits
The Patriot Coal Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2012, largely to avoid paying pensions and healthcare costs to retired coal miners. If granted, the bankruptcy filing would cause more than 23,000 retired miners and their dependents to lose their benefits. The United Mineworkers of America (UMW), with more than 1,650 active union members working in Patriot Coal mines, has been protesting throughout the trial, which recently ended. A ruling is expected soon.
The UMW collectively bargained their retirement plans with Peabody Energy, who sold their mining operations in the eastern United States to Patriot Coal in 2007. Patriot Coal claims it can no longer sustain paying for the benefits of its retired union miners due to weak coal markets and increasing costs. The company already laid off 1,250 miners last year.
Patriot Coal has explicitly stated its intentions are to avoid paying the health packages owed to retirees. In a statement during the court proceedings, Patriot Coal said, “As part of the proposal, Patriot intends to offer its union employees the same health care benefits it provides to nonunion employees.” Miners experience a host of health problems in their retirement, including black lung, due to the nature of their working conditions. Many miners join unions to acquire substantial health coverage for their retirement.
As Patriot Coal claims it is unable to afford paying what is rightfully owed miners, it has scheduled $5.2 million in retention bonuses to 119 managers, depending on how long they stay with the company. Current proposals with UMW to renegotiate health care obligations fail far short from funding the care union members collectively bargained for.
Should Patriot Coal successfully file for bankruptcy, thousands of coalminers will lose their health benefits and live in retirement without sufficient funds. These miners worked in extreme conditions for years, and deserve living with a retirement plan that rewards their service. Tell Judge Kathy Surratt-States Patriot Coal has an obligation to these miners, and the bankruptcy should not be granted.
Dear Hon. Kathy Surratt-States,
The Patriot Coal Corporation filed for bankruptcy primarily to avoid paying for the healthcare of thousands of miners, active and retired. More than 23,000 retired miners and their families stand to lose their benefits should Patriot Coal successfully file for bankruptcy. It is Patriot Coal’s obligation to honor the agreement collectively bargained for by the miners.
Miners work in extreme working conditions, and some of their health problems are wholly unique to their field, such as black lung. Taking away their healthcare plans will prevent miners from receiving the treatment they need in their retirement.
Patriot Coal should not be able to avoid paying for hard-working miners’ healthcare by filing for bankruptcy. Please deny them this request to ensure the obligations of Patriot Coal are not rescinded.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Nostrifikator via Wikimedia Commons