As previously reported, the Mine Workers (UMWA) union has been saying that Patriot Coal was specifically designed to fail so that former parent company Peabody Energy Corp. could eliminate health care costs associated with former workers in their mines. Patriot was originally spun off of Peabody and was started with much of Peabody's obligations to its retired workers, but very little of Peabody's assets. UMWA argued that Patriot was using bankruptcy to get out of living up to those obligations. Now Patriot filed a motion with the bankruptcy court to create a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) to replace the existing retiree health care system. According to UMWA, the VEBA would cover only a fraction of the obligations owed to retired workers and their families.
UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said today that the attempted move is “totally unacceptable, unnecessary and put thousands of retired coal miners, their dependents or their widows on the path to financial ruin, worsening health conditions or even death.”
Roberts said the move isn't even necessary:
The truth is that the depth of relief Patriot seeks isn’t needed. There is a path forward for the company that does not include drastic cuts at the level the company has proposed and we will demonstrate that in court.
Meanwhile, Patriot is seeking to pay $7 million in bonuses to executives:
That $7 million would pay for a lot of oxygen bottles for the black lung sufferers. If Patriot is successful, these retirees will soon face a cruel decision between getting the oxygen they need to survive or eating.