The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) today announced that the union has reached a settlement with bankrupt Patriot Coal on new terms and conditions of employment that makes significant improvements over what federal Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States ordered on May 29, and what Patriot implemented on July 1.
“After several weeks of nearly around-the-clock negotiations, I believe we have reached something that can be taken to the membership for ratification,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “We have been able to restore, or at least improve upon, many of the most drastic changes that the Judge ordered, including in the area of wages, health care benefits, paid time off, pensions, and more. In addition, we have negotiated a mechanism that will allow retiree health care benefits to continue.”
The vote took place on Friday, Aug. 16. Some 1,800 active or laid-off members in West Virginia and Kentucky were eligible to vote.
Members of the United Mine Workers of America voted to ratify a settlement with bankrupt Patriot Coal.
The union said in a statement Friday night that current or laid-off Patriot workers in West Virginia and Kentucky voted 85 percent to 15 percent in favor of the agreement reached late last week.
Some 1,800 members from 13 locals were voting.
“Thanks to the incredible leadership of UMWA President Cecil Roberts, the settlement reached between Patriot Coal and the UMWA is a ray of hope for Patriot miners and retirees after their hard-earned pensions and health care benefits were jeopardized by May’s court decision,” said U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). “Cecil waged a hard fought battle on behalf of his members who have suffered heartbreak in return for their loyalty and service to the industry for far too long.”
“To help protect miners from similar situations going forward, I’ve put forward the Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act, to give miners, retirees, and their families the legal protections they’ve earned and deserve by holding employers accountable for the commitments they’ve made to their workers,” Rockefeller added. “I will never stop pushing for a legal system that considers workers and employers on a level playing field, and looking for ways to close egregious loopholes that allow companies to pad their profits by legally escaping promises they made.”
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement in response to the Patriot Coal and United Mine Workers of America agreement reached:
“In today’s toxic environment, it is easy to be against compromise and walk away from negotiations,” Manchin said. “It is encouraging to see our labor and corporate leaders stand up, come together and find a solution necessary to preserve thousands of jobs, restore and protect the health and pension benefits that hardworking miners and their families earned and deserve. This settlement will give workers more input and allow them to share a stake in their destiny, while also providing hope and optimism for the future of the coal industry, which is vital to our state and our entire nation.”