Update: 16 people were arrested at the rally, including UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts, after they refused police orders to move away from the Patriot Coal headquarters.
Thousands of people are rallying in Charleston, W.Va., Monday in support of retired workers from Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. Patriot filed for bankruptcy and is attempting to abandon its responsibilities to pay health care costs for retirees from the three companies, a strategy the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) argue was purposefully done when Patriot was created as a way to shed those costs. Along with current and retired mine workers, the rally includes family members, labor and faith leaders, elected officials and community supporters.
UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said:
Peabody Energy and Arch Coal began plotting years ago for this day to come. Patriot is now the vehicle through which Peabody’s and Arch’s scheme to rid themselves of their long-term obligations to these retirees is playing out. But that does not absolve Patriot. 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.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke at the rally:
When you stand up against the corporate rip-off-and-bonus culture, and against Wall Street cheats, when you stand up for American values, for the dignity of your retirees, and for fairness for everyone, you stand up for every single worker in America. And we’re right with you. Twelve million members of the AFL-CIO believe in you. The American people believe in you. We stand with you. Shoulder to shoulder. Today, and tomorrow, and every day after, until you force Patriot Coal to play by the rules.
Let me tell you something, no company called “patriot” should ever do what Patriot Coal has done. This company stands for everything wrong in America today. Patriot Coal stands for broken promises. Patriot Coal stands for lies. Patriot Coal stands against everything America stands for. This is a story America has heard too many times. We’re sick of it.
Patriot Coal doesn’t know a thing about patriotism. In America, our word is our bond. In America, we honor our contracts. But that’s not how they play on Wall Street. That’s not Patriot Coal. They take the money and run. Not so fast, Patriot. You’re busted.
This has been going on long enough. Too long. And it’s not good enough. Listen up, Patriot Coal: You can’t game the American system anymore. You can’t use our courts to steal our security. We won’t let you. You can’t turn your back on your retirees. We won’t let you. My friends, we’ve been living and working under the threat of vulture capitalists for too long now. And we’re not going to take it anymore.
The rally is being livestreamed at Fairness at Patriot.