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Working Families Protest Patriot Coal's New Bonus Plan

Photo courtesy Cathy Sherwin

Patriot Coal filed a motion in the Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri to be allowed to pay $6 million to 120 senior executives, company managers and office personnel. The company's top six executives would receive no bonuses in the plan, but the bonuses are being condemned by working families and retirees the company is attempting to deny health care coverage.

Mine Workers (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts said via press release:

This is nothing more than a finger in the eye of those retirees and widows, as well as the active workers who are looking at the destruction of decades of collective bargaining improvements. These workers put their health on the line and put their lives on the line every single day to produce coal.

UMWA has previously charged that parent companies Peabody Energy and Arch Coal spun off retiree costs to Patriot so they could avoid paying those costs and increase their profits. Patriot recently filed for bankruptcy and is seeking to avoid paying the health care benefits that retirees, most of whom worked for Peabody and Arch, earned.

Roberts said the money is going to the wrong people:

It’s not their fault Patriot is in bankruptcy. For Patriot to now take millions of dollars that would help keep people alive and pass it around to already well-paid executives and managers is just wrong and sends a terrible message to the active and retired workers who still depend on Patriot for their lives and livelihoods.

On Wednesday, 1,000 active and retired coal miners and their families marched on Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis to demand that Peabody, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal meet their obligations to retired workers. The rally included working families who traveled from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Roberts talked about the bigger story:

Peabody and Arch executives are shifting around like sand on a beach, trying to evade their obligations to the workers who made the company wealthy. But UMWA members are solid as the rock we mine for a living. We will not rest until we win justice for the workers who were promised health care benefits in exchange for a lifetime of hazardous work.

The rally in St. Louis was livestreamed and blogged at Fairness at Patriot Now.

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