Thousands Gather in Fairmont for UMWA Rally - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Thousands Gather in Fairmont for UMWA Rally

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Thousands of former and current mine workers were in Fairmont Tuesday morning to spread the word about what they said is an injustice to them.

Thirty of them volunteered to be arrested for illegal assembly during a United Mine Workers of America Protest against Patriot Coal in West Virginia.

"They were made these promises by Peabody and Arch. We believe that Peabody and Arch should live up to their promises," said Phil Smith, Communications Director of the United Mine Workers of America.

This, after retirement health care benefits they earned years ago, move farther and farther away from them.

"I worked for Peabody and Eastern for 33 years underground. I earned my healthcare and now they are trying to take it away from me," said Joe Brown, a former employee for Peabody Energy.

The United Mine Workers of America said they worked for Peabody Energy and Arch Coal under the assumption that those benefits would be waiting for them when they retired.

Those benefit agreements were transferred to Patriot Coal when it launched in 2007. Just five years later, that company filed for bankruptcy.

"As far as we're concerned, this a company that sooner or later was going to fail. Here we are today, price of coal went down. Patriot didn't have the source of income it needed to sustain the cost that it had. So it filed for bankruptcy," Smith said.

For Brown, that means choosing between the lesser of two evils.

"Either get your medicine and not eat, or eat and not get your medicine," Brown said.

A bankruptcy judge ruled in favor of Patriot's plan but these miners aren't accepting that decision and said you'll stop hearing their chants when they get what they earned.

"We'll continue to fight until it's over," Brown said.

Smith said these workers are fighting for more than just their rights as lifetime workers; they're fighting for yours too.

"This creates a road map for any other company in the United States to do the same things their retirees that Peabody and Arch did to theirs. The company that made these promises is not the company that filed for bankruptcy. So there is nothing from keeping GM from spinning of Buick and putting all of their liabilities in to Buick and saying ‘Buick you make it on your own now'," Smith said.