U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller says bankruptcy judge has done no favors for union miners.
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U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller says bankruptcy judge has done no favors for union miners.

CHARLESTON, W.Va.–Negotiations continued Thursday between the United Mine Workers Union and Patriot Coal one day after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ruled Patriot could change its collective bargaining agreement with the union and benefits for retired miners.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller called the judge’s ruling “a nice big gift” for the coal companies when he spoke with MetroNews Thursday.

Rockefeller said he agrees with the UMWA that Patriot was created by Peabody Coal in 2007 “for the purpose of taking away health care benefits and for the purpose of taking away pensions from miners who had been promised them,” Rockefeller said. “And from my point of view, from miners who were legally owed them.”

Patriot President and CEO Ben Hatfield said Wednesday for the coming days the company plans to operate under its current UMWA contracts.

“Patriot management will continue diligent negotiations with the UMWA leadership to address their concerns about our court-approved proposals,” Hatfield said.

He added Patriot hopes for a resolution with the union that is “the best possible outcome for all parties.”

“It (Patriot Coal) was made for the purpose of taking away health care benefits and for the purpose of taking away pensions from miners who had been promised them,” U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Sen. Rockefeller says he “detests” the judge’s decision.

“It was the wrong decision,” he said.

Patriot says it wants to implement a plan that will get the company out of bankruptcy and save 4,000 jobs. The UMWA says the retiree benefits part of the decision will impact more than 22,000 retirees, their surviving spouses and dependents. The union says many of the retirees never worked for Patriot.


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  • Smokey

    bet that judge has a nice bank account right now.

  • Shadow

    All this Ado when both parties had their fingers crossed behind them when they made the contract. The company had no clue that they could make good all the requirements promised and the union knew their requirements for a contract were beyond what may be accomplish-able. A Pox on both. The only thing that the contract did was get the work going again.

  • Jim

    The judge is working for a bankrupt government maybe she should cut her own pay, retirement and healthcare. The U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt . She might need to clean up her own house instead of ripping of hard working people who gave their whole live to the coal companies and did nothing wrong but tried to make a better life for their family's .

  • Ax Man

    Why don't the unions, take care of retirement and health care?, "O" I forgot, all retirement plans run by the unions are un-funded also.

  • Janette

    90/10 insurance, $250 deductible per year, I realize it's not the 100% they have been used to but 90/10 is far better than most West Virginians have.

  • Tired

    Zero you can save your anti-union preaching all day long it shows you either are lacking the ability to understand unions are needed to keep corporations honest. Or your angle on your comments tell me you must be one of the bunch that stands to have your pockets lined with stolen money. You would get along well with my boss he hates my union but has the same problem as you. Its called we fellow union workers are not going anywhere so you have to deal with it. Hope that thought irritates you.

  • 2XLPatriot

    Both of my parents were union coal miners. Yes, that's right....My Mom was a coal miner! I grew up in a union family, through strikes and everything else that tends to happen when workers feel they are wronged. I remember the 80's when Reagan became President and I remember that my parents were able to purchase land and build a new home during those years becuase the economy was so good. The problem today is not with union memebrs, it's with the leadership who will climb into bed with anyone who may be able to advance their own agendas and then turn around and brainwash the members to support whatever agenda they have. Unions should not have had secret meetings with the President and scam "Cadillac benefits" and exemptions from Obamacare. Now, the union that I'm a memebr of (Federal), is strongly opposing just about everything Obama does and they are realizing they were lead astray. When was the last time 'ol Cecil had to sacrifice anything or tell his family that Christmas was going to be thin this year? Right. He lives off the back of union memebrs the same way big business does. Union dues are his paycheck. Unions have their place but, they definately need to learn their place as well.

  • hillbilly

    When these companies made these union contracts that promised all this healthcare, what made people think they would even be around 30 years later? Coal is winding down as a resource and getting harder to mine due to environmental regulations, pointing toward more of this type of thing happening to other companies as well.

  • Rick

    Most of you who have commented, missed the point entirely. Your bent on obama/unions and are blind to what the overall ramifications are to this ruling. If you work for a living, the corporate states of america can legally maneuver, shift or create bogus entities to shift responsibilities around and basically screw YOU, Unions or not.

  • zero tolerance

    I'm not sure why Jay Rock is so upset. All miners who got bent by their union still have ObamaCare. Not sure what all the fuss is about.

  • To The Raleigh

    I would encourage anyone reading this to stop blaming republicans or democrat's for this sad condition these union members find themselves.
    Although, there is certainly a lot of blame to go around, situations like this need to serve as a wake up call to everyone. Do not simply put your trust in someone else i.e the unions or a business and especially our government. You will be let down every time! Instead be accountable for your own actions. If you work for a non-union company or are a member of a union, take steps to save money and make plans for just this type of situation to occur. This is not the first time and will not be the last time someone was PROMISED something they did not receive. And before we ask our government to step in and make things better, remember what Thomas Jefferson said " A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have."

    • Concerned

      Finally, someone with a brain. Nice comment instead of just blaming or whatever. I just wonder how much screaming there'd be on here by the same people if the gov filed for bankruptcy and stopped all social sec payments. Food for thought.

  • Concerned

    I read lots of anti union rants on here by what I'm thinking are from people who aren't coal miners. I don't comment too often but these comments have hit a nerve. I don't like to generalize but many republicans call Obama a socialist. Fine, that's fair. But what do you call it when workers have no rights, and companies can screw hundreds if not thousands of people out if something to line the pockets of a few? I call it communism. Thanks & shame on all of you who have the nerve to preach without walking in their shoes. Have a good day.

    • zero tolerance

      "Communism" now there the latest comment straight off the back of a union rhetoric card.