A St. Louis-based coal producer’s bankruptcy case is now in the hands of a judge.
The five day hearing on Patriot Coal Corps bankruptcy proceedings came to a close Friday and now U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States has until May 29 to rule with either Patriot or the United Mine Workers of America Union (UMWA).
Last July, Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, seeking to reorganize amid what the company called “unsustainable labor-related legacy liabilities ” that include pension and healthcare payments.
The company has said that employee pension and healthcare costs have increased to the point the company can’t sustain them in the current industry struggles.
Since the bankruptcy proceedings began, the UMWA has been on a campaign against Patriot. The union claims Patriot was created only to fail so Peabody and Arch Coal could get out of obligations of paying pension and healthcare benefits to retired union workers.
Patriot officials have denied the union’s claims and add they either have to make necessary cuts or face liquidation.
In their most recent labor proposal to the UMWA, Patriot wants to create a VEBA trust that would be controlled by the UMWA or the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds. The union would also get a 35 percent equity stake in the company once the bankruptcy proceedings have concluded.
Union workers have threatened to strike if Patriot is allowed to walk away from its labor contracts.
It was not known how long it would be before a ruling was made in the case.