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Thousands Gather at Kentucky Courthouse in Call for Justice for Miners: Peabody, Arch Coal Fingered as Villains in Patriot Coal

This post originally appeared at the UMWA website.

Declaring that a decision by Bankruptcy Court Judge Kathy Surratt-States amounted to “curb service” for Patriot Coal, Cecil Roberts, international president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), told a crowd of more than 4,000 gathered here that the union will never stop its campaign for justice for miners and retirees abandoned by Patriot and its creators, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

"Peabody and Arch and the judicial system think they have won, but I don’t care what that judge did,” Roberts said. “There is a higher judge. There is an Almighty Judge. And there is a book that has the Word in it. That book tells me you're not supposed to're not supposed to're not supposed to misrepresent. Peabody and Arch have stolen. They are liars. And we are here for justice.”

The animated crowd of active and retired miners, their families and labor and community supporters from at least nine states rallied in front of the Henderson County Courthouse in this latest in a series of rallies, many of them in St. Louis, where the coal companies are headquartered and the bankruptcy hearing was held.

Kentucky state Rep. Brent Yonts said the May 29 decision by the bankruptcy court was “a new victory by the robber barons” that should send a clear message to members of Congress that we must “change the bankruptcy laws so we don’t allow this to happen to working people.”

Michael Pape, a key aide to U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), in whose district today’s rally was held, said the congressman would “work tirelessly to make sure the coal companies live up to their promises and you get your benefits. The congressman will do everything he can to make sure the promises made to you are honored.”

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londigran expressed the support from union members everywhere, reflected in the crowd by signs and T-shirts bearing the names of the United Steelworkers, UAW, AFSCME, SEIU and many more. “The UMWA is connecting this struggle to a renewed spirit of solidarity, which will unite a new movement of workers willing to fight back against corporate tyranny and another generation of robber barons.”

“This has become a country by, for and of the corporations. We need the people to stand up and be heard from,” he said. “This movement is the United Mine Workers ‘Traveling Salvation Show.’ If you want a better America, we can fix it today. You just give working-class people their God-given right to join a union again.”

“I’ve got a message for Peabody and Patriot and the judicial system in this country,” Roberts said. “This is a movement by the people, for the people and of the people. We are the nurses who heal the nation, the teachers who teach the nation, the building trades who build the nation, the police who protect the nation and the coal miners who energize the nation!”

As in previous rallies in St. Louis and Charleston, W.Va., the rally was opened and closed with prayers, and 15 of the activists offered themselves up for arrests at the end with a display of nonviolent protest, sitting in the middle of Main Street. Roberts and UMWA Secretary-Treasurer Dan Kane were arrested, along with Londigran.

The Rev. Anthony Shonis, associate pastor of the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, invoked the memory of generations of coal miners past, who had endured hardship at the hands of cruel mine operators, but who had organized and fought for workers rights.

“Dear God,” he prayed, “we are here with many witnesses who are behind us. But now we see the light, that every generation of miners must continue the fight for workers’ rights. We can never rest until we defend the rights of every worker. By your grace, we will not be turned back.”

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