CHARLESTON, W.Va. — United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts predicts union members will approve a tentative settlement agreement on health care coverage and benefits with bankrupt Patriot Coal later this week.

MetroNews file photo

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said the protests against Peabody Coal and Arch Coal will continue.

Cecil Roberts said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” the goal throughout tough negotiations has always been to keep promised benefits intact for workers and retirees even as Patriot Coal reorganizes under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“Since July 1, I’ve had the ability to put this company out of business by calling a strike and I chose not to do that because I thought it was a bad idea because that would have eliminated their jobs and any hopes of having health care for retirees,” Roberts said.

Instead, he said negotiators with both the UMWA and Patriot worked hard on a compromise agreement that could override a reworked benefit structure that took effect last month.  Those changes were part of a May 29 order from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States who is overseeing Patriot’s bankruptcy case.

“This represents the successful conclusion of a difficult negotiation in which both the UMWA leadership and Patriot management have invested many long days,” said Patriot President and CEO Ben Hatfield of the settlement in a statement.

“Both parties want to preserve jobs and protect healthcare benefits for retirees by keeping Patriot on track for reorganization and not liquidation.”  Hatfield said, if the deal is approved, it will let Patriot secure the outside investments it needs to reorganize.

Patriot’s lawyers have asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court to expedite a hearing on the settlement.

Roberts said the details of that tentative settlement will not be released publicly until after about 1,800 UMWA members in Kentucky and West Virginia hear the terms and vote on it.  That vote is scheduled for Friday.

However, Roberts said, no matter the outcome, the settlement vote will not end the UMWA’s protests against Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.  He said those companies dumped too many liabilities into Patriot Coal when it was created.

“That fight will continue because they’re the ones that created this problem and there’s just simply not enough money at Patriot to provide lifetime health care here,” said Roberts.  “In many ways, this is probably not what Peabody wanted.”

Union members were back outside of Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Officials with Peabody Energy responded in a statement on Tuesday.  “The UMWA is fully aware that Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt levels and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year,” the statement read.

“This is a matter solely between the union and Patriot Coal, and the proper process for deciding such issues is through bankruptcy courts.”

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  • Patriotic Gal

    Oh, by the way, thank God for Unions, that protect the workers to give them their rights, to fight for the workers! Amen to the Unions, all the way, Solidarity!!!!! Shame on those who are company sucks! Hum just think the Union has got you what you are living off of today! Thank God for UNIONS!!!(:

  • Patriotic Gal

    Yes would like to respond even though it has been months since the last reply, but anyways to the point. At the Arch rally there was a guy on top of an automobile with riot gear on, and so there was quite a few cops with riot gear on and other riot equipment! So yes, the lady was correct that we were doing a peaceful rally and this is the first time in all the rallies that riot gear was worn! And it was just us old people there, so doesn't that look shameful on the riot-geared people! We were peaceful!!

  • Charlotte Kinser

    When a company is broke and yet positive benefits arise that could only B a blessing from God!!! He said He will supply our needs while He uses individuals to bring them about.. He used UMWA President and others to work out this positive contract until God opens another door to fight for better things again!!! I pray those voting will C all hard work will B N vain if this contract is not approved!!!! And will loose everything because!! We all no the old saying is true.. Can't draw blood from a turnip and as there has been these benefit found there surely can't B more if the company is broke!!!! If working people do right thing and welcome the contract God will do His part and open other doors down road for better things!!

  • Whydoireadthisgarbage

    Your husband does know crap when he sees it. Your comments are full of it!

  • Judy

    Oh, there was just one more little thing I wanted to comment on. My husband is not one of Cecil's little lambs. He has a mind of his own and can think for his self. He knows crap when he sees it and will vote accordingly.

  • Judy

    My husband is a miner at one of Patriots mines. We have watched all of this closely and been to a couple of rallies. Some of these retirees don't even know how agreeing to this contract will affect the men that are still working. They think this is all about there retirement. If I am reading this proposal right it looks like my husband would have to become totally disabled in the mines for him to have health care or die in the mines for me to have health care. My husband is three years from retirement so where does this leave us. These working miners are damned if they do and damned if they don't ratify this contract. If they vote it down there going to be accused of not taking care of there fellow miner and if they vote for it there screwing there selves. So I think its a little premature for Cecil Roberts to start patting his self on the back. I think that if we are going to go out broke paying for our health care and medication. They can liquidate tomorrow.

    • Patriot 1

      Judy...You may want to get someone that has a clue to explain whatever proposal you're looking at to you because your interpretation of it is nowhere close.

      Below is the agreement in detail....

      *The restoration of all but $1.00 per hour in wage cuts that were as high as $7.53 per hour for some job classifications;

      *A $0.50 per hour annual wage increase beginning New Year’s Day 2015;

      *Patriot will remain in the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund, meaning there will be no affect on pension benefits for current retirees, and currently active members will continue to earn pension credit;

      *The monthly premiums for health care benefits will be eliminated;

      *The annual out-of-pocket maximum for health care benefits will be reduced by 60 percent, from $4,000 to $1,600;

      *Life insurance benefits, vision care benefits, dental insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance will also be restored;

      *A Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) will be created as the mechanism for paying retiree healthcare benefits going forward. In addition, Patriot gave the union a 35-38 percent stake in the company as part of the settlement.


      The $1.00 per hour pay cut is the only thing you have lost which is more than made up in the Healthcare premium being eliminated.

      I still pay health care premiums...
      My out of pocket max doubled...
      I also took a pay cut...
      I haven't had a raise in 3 years...

      Now who is losing?

  • Patriot 1

    Genevieve Cline...The way you have described this you were held at gunpoint. I would imagine they had snipers on top of the buildings and all the doors rigged to explode if you tried to enter. I'm really surprised something like that didn't make national news.

    I have only one thing to are just as big of a sensationalist and liar as Cecil is. You even have the audacity as to even mention his name in the same sentence as God.

    Geez lady, you're a psycho too.


  • Patriot 1

    Yet again Cecil has put his almighty hand upon this and has single handedly solved the problem. are so right. Everytime Cecil opens his mouth it's all about what "he" did. Cecil has saved the day.

    Patriot has...from day one...tried to preserve existing benefits for it's employees and retirees. Patriot was only looking to adjust some benefits and wages so it could be affordable. Patriot has never indicated that anyone would be losing benefits.

    I guess these are the times when Cecil must shine sense he's collecting all the union dues to pay his salary. He's worse than any news media about sensationalizing. he knows that twisting the truth keeps him employed. He's nothing more than a deceptive liar.

    • russell yoney

      patriot 1--evidently you are a company person that doesn,t care about the working class of people in this country or any union person at all--i was at henderson ky myself in person--i saw the armed vehicles with my own eyes--the police were very proffesional and respected--this was a drill for them in case of a real emergency like terrorist attacks on our great country--the police die a great job--and i respect them greatley--you can,t see the forest from all the leaves--think out side the box dude.

      • Patriot 1

        Yes I am a company man...have been all my career. I don't agree with all the companies decisions but the company has kept me working and providing for my family through some tough times. I believe that the company is trying to do whats right by it's employees. They could have very easily abided by the judges ruling and made a lot deeper cuts but...they didn't. They want people working as well.

        So, now it was the police that were armed and ready to protect all the people as opposed to the statement that Ms Cline made..."Arch brought out Arms of Massive Warfare that would have killed thousands of people.". I think she might have sensationalized "lied" just a bit...don't you think? It really burns my hide to hear her talking about faith and spreading lies in the same breath. That issue will be taken care of at a later date with the ultimate judge.

        As for the working class people in this country...yes I do care. I care because I, like many others, have a family that depends on me. They depend on me to have a job every day. I do care about the union men and women that I have worked side by side with for 25 years. Some of which are very close friends. I do want to see them have good jobs and good benefits. But, I do understand that there are times when companies have to make changes and in this case it's a change for survival.

        What I don't care about is Cecil and his cronies setting back like fat cats taking all the credit and lying not only to the general public but also the union men and women that he represents. Making it look as though if it weren't for him none of this was possible. I don't care about all his deception and twisting of the truth. The saddest part of it is that all the union men and women swallow every ounce of it.

        Cecil and his little lambs...

  • jeff

    If the new contract is approved by the Union miners, all non union miners should immediately seek Union repsentation. You should expect your company to lower your wages and benefits. Each of you have lived off the coat tails of the UMWA, it is now time to stand up for yourself, be proud support your family and support your Union family for the betterment of all miners.

  • granddad

    "I've had the ability to put this company out of business". His arm must be tired from patting himself on the back.

  • Thomas White

    Why would they want to show so much muscle when are our there for a peaceful demonstartion

  • Buck

    Could someone please describe what "arms of massive warfare" are? Aren't those things illegal in St. Louis?

  • Genevieve Cline

    A great job so far. I have the faith that God will let this happen.Mr. Roberts our President of The UMWA . The knowledge that you and many others have will win the battle. We (umwa) had a rally before at Arch Headquarters ,the first in 2013,Our rally was peaceful.Arch brought out Arms of Massive Warfare that would have killed thousands of people. So I asked the question. Does The United States of America allow such actions from a corporate coal enterprise?