ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–United Mine Workers from West Virginia, Indiana and other states converged outside Peabody Energy Headquarters for a protest over the future of their health care and retirement benefits — with ten miners getting arrested for sitting down in the street and refusing to move.
It’s the second time in recent weeks a large protest outside the coal giant’s headquarters has led to non-violent arrests. Several busloads of miners arrived swelling the crowd size to about a thousand.
Miners allege that Peabody deceitfully created spinoff Patriot Coal, transferred most of its contract obligations to Patriot, and then watched the firm go into bankruptcy.
“They’re trying to get rids of us,” said retired miner John Hubbell of Jasonville, Indiana. “They created Patriot Coal knowing it would fail, and Patriot can’t keep up with everything.”Peabody spokesman Vic Svec denied the worker’s claim that Patriot’s failure was pre-planned. He blames Patriot’s demise on falling coal prices, tough competition from natural gas, and new environmental restrictions on the coal industry.
“If the UMWA had those concerns, certainly didn’t voice them,” Svec said, “In fact, they agreed to key elements of the spinoff at that time. So, the concept now that they would come back with amnesia and suggest that they had no knowledge of this, where were they over the last five years? They also renegotiated a contract themselves in 2011 with Patriot Coal.”
A U.S. Bankruptcy court here is deliberating the case.