ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Police arrested thirteen protestors in the latest non-violent demonstration against Peabody Energy. It’s the third time current and former West Virginia coal miners have gathered in downtown.
A crowd of about a thousand United Mine Workers of America marched outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis, where the Patriot Coal bankruptcy case is being heard.
The UMWA alleges Peabody created Patriot in 2007 in order to transfer union contracts to a spinoff “designed to fail.”
Attending the rally after a four-hour bus ride, miner John Mathews of West Virginia says the case is significant for the future of contracts between labor and management.
“This is the kind of stuff that causes revolutions,” Mathews said, “What’s on the line for me? My health care and my pension.”
Miner Patrick Haussin of Indiana says it was wrong for Peabody to shift his contract to a spinoff for which he never worked.
“I had 35 years with Peabody,” Haussin said, “I’ve never worked for Patriot. This was a spinoff they did back in ’07. Our contract was with Peabody.”
Peabody Energy says the protestors are “trying to rewrite history.” The company says the miners failed to protest when Patriot Coal was created and began as a successful spinoff. Peabody blames the Patriot bankruptcy on “market forces,” and says there was no plan to have Patriot fail.
On Monday, UMWA President Cecil Roberts told reporters he hopes Peabody executives will give sworn depositions in the bankruptcy case to support the union’s claim that Patriot was burdened with more contract liabilities than its assets could support.
“None of the depositions have happened yet so when people who were party to this entire spinoff at Peabody have to hold their right hand up, they have to tell the truth, that hasn’t happened yet. So we don’t know who we have,” Roberts said.
“We believe, based on the conversations which took place at the time of the spinoff, that people knew that the liabilities far exceeded the assets,” he added.