Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo is making no apologies for his Jan. 29 arrest in St. Louis in connection with the Patriot Coal controversy.
Caputo, a longtime member of the UMWA, talked about the civil disobedience arrest Monday during a House floor speech in support of a resolution calling for Patriot to live up to its promises.
“Enough is enough!” Caputo exclaimed. “Where would the Civil Rights movement be today if Dr. King said, ‘Yes sir, I’ll move. I didn’t mean to cause you any problems officer.’ Or if Rosa Parks said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry it won’t happen again. I’ll move to the back of the bus,'” Caputo asked.
The United Mine Workers Union is waging a campaign against Patriot and its bankruptcy case. The union maintains the company was set up to fail by Peabody and Arch coal companies so the companies wouldn’t have to pay benefits to retired miners and their families.
Caputo says pension health care benefits from Patriot produce $200 million a year in health care spending in West Virginia. He told fellow delegates allowing the companies to be relieved from their obligations would be an economic hit. But Caputo focused most of his remarks on retired miners who are in danger of losing their pension benefits.
“If they get away with this many people who are dependent on life-saving medications just simply won’t be able to afford it and they will die. There’s just no nice way to put that, they will die,” Caputo said.
In a statement released last week Peabody called the UMWA’s designed to fail claim “a desperate attempt to rewrite history.” The company says Patriot Coal was highly successful in its first five years but purchased Magnum Coal in 2008 and after that “a series of other unforeseen events affecting all coal producers followed – all on Patriot’s watch.”
Peabody says it has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so.
Caputo strongly disagrees.
“Arch promised. Arch lied. Peabody promised. Peabody lied,” the delegate said Monday.
The UMWA has a large rally scheduled for next Monday in Charleston.
The House resolution passed 93-4 with Republican delegates Troy Andes, J.B. McCuskey, Marty Gearheart and John Overington voting against it.