LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Hundreds of coal miners rallied in western Kentucky Tuesday to protest planned cuts to union wages and benefits by Patriot Coal Corp. as it goes through bankruptcy.
The rally organized by the United Mine Workers of America outside the Henderson County Courthouse ended with the arrests of about a dozen union members who briefly demonstrated in the street.
Patriot, a spinoff of St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp., is seeking to cut worker and retiree benefits as part of a bankruptcy filing. Last week a federal judge in that city ruled in favor of Patriot, giving the go-ahead to significantly cut health care and pension benefits to thousands of workers and retirees.
Patriot has said it would have to spend $1.6 billion to cover the health care costs.
The miners, many of them retirees, carried signs and gathered near the courthouse steps Tuesday to hear from state lawmakers and union leaders.
“If there is no justice, Peabody, you will have no rest, you will have no peace,” said Dan Kane, the United Mine Workers’ secretary-treasurer. “You may depend on the poisonous words of a judge to let you out of a debt, but let me tell you, we’ll decide when it’s over, and it ain’t over yet.”
The rally was streamed live Tuesday on a website sponsored by the United Mine Workers.
Several union members in the crowd wore white T-shirts that read “Peabody Promised … Peabody Lied.”
Union leaders have argued that Patriot was intentionally saddled with unsustainable pension and long-term health care obligations when Peabody formed it as a separate company in 2007.