Charleston, W.Va. — The United Mine Workers of America will hold its first rally since last week’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court ruling, which cleared the way for Patriot Coal to rework contracts and benefits for current workers and retirees, on Tuesday in Kentucky.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts says he and other union officials are still in talks with Patriot Coal on another proposal that could potentially replace the plan Judge Kathy Surratt-States approved for the company that is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“We’re both doing a dance here that is high risk at this point in time,” said Roberts.
He said the UMWA wants to find some way to improve on the Patriot Coal plan while, at the same time, continuing the fight with Peabody Coal and Arch Coal, the sources of most of Patriot’s liabilities from the time the company was created in 2007.
Roberts said it’s a complicated matter with many different factors at play.
“It’s not just Patriot and the union. We’ve also got to figure out some way to take our claim on behalf of these pensioners, turn it into cash to pay health care bills, at the same time we’re reaching an accommodation with Patriot,” he said.
Roberts was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Patriot President and CEO Ben Hatfield called last week’s ruling “a major step forward for Patriot, allowing our company to achieve savings that are critical to our reorganization and the preservation of more than 4,000 jobs.”
With the ruling, benefit changes could start taking effect on July 1st.
Tuesday’s rally is expected to draw thousands of UMWA members and their supporters to Henderson, Ky. It will begin at 10 a.m. at the Henderson County Courthouse.