Mine Workers ( UMWA ) President Cecil Roberts and nine other union members were arrested in front of Peabody Energy’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis yesterday, as more than 750 members and retirees sang Amazing Grace and held signs calling for fairness. Several of those arrested had oxygen tanks, and many in the crowd were brought to tears as the arrested protesters were peacefully loaded into the sheriff’s van while Which Side Are You On played on the loudspeakers. The protesters arrived at Peabody after marching from federal bankruptcy court, where Patriot Coal’s lawyers were inside. Those arrested were released later in the day, according to the St. Louis City Division of Corrections.
Saying the corporations have “thousand dollar lawyers and one dollar morals,” Roberts laid out the reasons why workers traveled such long distances to join the morning’s rally—arriving from West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kansas. Patriot Coal was created in late 2007, when Peabody Energy spun off the company, getting rid of UMWA member employees and their pension and health care obligations.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Roberts talked about his father, who worked for Peabody:
Roberts told the crowd that his father, Cecil Roberts Sr. of Cabin Creek, W.Va., died with dignity in 2007 because of the health care he was promised during his working years for Peabody. "I am not going to sit idly by while they take away something that my daddy built," he said.
In speeches and in prayer, rally attendees mentioned the thousands who were not able to travel to St. Louis on Tuesday, remembering those in hospitals and hospices and otherwise too ill to make the long trip by bus. Union members and allied community groups from the area came out to support the protesters, including Sheet Metal Workers ( SMWIA ), United Steelworkers ( USW ), the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists ( CBTU ), AFT , Jobs With Justice , Painters and Allied Trades ( IUPAT ), the Greater St. Louis Labor Council , Communications Workers of America ( CWA ), SEIU , Machinists ( IAM ), UAW and AFGE .
The Chapter 11 bankruptcy has jeopardized pension and health care benefits for some 20,000 retirees and their family members .
Learn more on the Fairness at Patriot website.
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