CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the United Mine Workers of America in West Virginia and Kentucky overwhelmingly ratified a labor settlement with Patriot Coal on Friday.

UMWA workers from 13 local unions at Patriot Coal operations in the two states participated in the vote, with 85 percent favoring the agreement that followed months of negotiations.

“The membership has made it clear that they are willing to do their part to keep Patriot operating, keep their jobs and ensure that thousands of retirees continue getting the healthcare they depend on and deserve,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts in a news release.

Reached last week, the agreement was announced Monday to the union membership for consideration. The UMWA claimed the new deal makes significant improvements to a federal bankruptcy judge’s order from May, which made steep wage cuts.

The ratified contract includes the restoration of all but $1 an hour in wages, an annual pay increase of 50 cents per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2015, a reduction in the annual out-of-pocket maximum for healthcare benefits and a decision by Patriot to remain in the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund, meaning no pension benefits for current retirees are affected.

“Ratification of these agreements provides labor stability and ensures cost savings essential to Patriot’s plan of reorganization,” said Patriot president and CEO Bennett K. Hatfield in a news release. “These agreements should set Patriot on a path to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of 2013.”


While the agreement could end months of protests by the UMWA over Patriot’s bankruptcy filing, Roberts said the union has other contentions that must be addressed.

“We are now able to turn our full attention to securing the lifetime healthcare benefits Peabody and Arch promised these retirees,” Roberts said in the release. “If those companies thought our public effort to highlight their poor corporate citizenship was over, they will quickly find out otherwise. We’re moving into a new phase of that effort, and soon we fully intend to hold Peabody and Arch accountable.”

Roberts and the UMWA claim Arch and Peabody intentionally set up Patriot to fail in order to drain off pension and healthcare obligations.

“This settlement has not solved that problem, it has only bought us time to seek a more permanent solution,” said Roberts.

A motion seeking authorization to enter into these agreements with the UMWA has been filed with the Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis and will be heard at the Aug. 20 hearing.

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  • Null

    I'm a member of the CWA local 2002 and proud of it. Who else do you have to fight for your benefits and pay? CEO's of these company's make millions of dollars and still say they r broke, then give themselves million dollar bonuses. Go figure. Without coal where would this state be.....a ghost state. Good job UMWA!

  • WVU07

    Less than 9% of the workforce in the United States belongs to a union.

    • Bondo

      Unions take your money and go on vacations, thats it. They don't make a product or sell a product they use your dues money. It's not hard to figure out. We need to be a right to work state. We would see how many folks really want them here.Then the unions would have to go. Nothing but a big Joke.

  • John D

    The USA is the least Unionize Country in the industrial world, US workers are 19th in Wages & Benefits when it comes to Health care & Retirement benefits we are at bottom of the hole Does Unions have something to do with good wages and benefits.

  • jim

    A lot of people don't realize just how much unions have done for the entire population, not just their membership....ever hear of social security, Medicaids, or Osha to name a couple.
    Right to work really means, "right to work for less", which amounts to slashed wages, no benefits and a dramatically reduced tax revenue which will lead to higher taxes. It's common sense that anyone working should want to belong to a union. You union bashers need to wake up....if we go down , you all go with us.

    Jim Hunt

    Proud member of IUOE Local 132
    (Operating engineers)

    • WVWho

      Unions played a crucial role in developing worker's rights and safety, but I don't understand the point of having them now. The pensions from unions and their leaders crippled the auto and manufacturing industry and forced jobs oversees. In the education realm, the teacher's union has strongly opposed pay based on performance which is how every industry should perform. It protects the lazy and underachieving and punishes the ones who actually try. I can't wait for the day they are all out the door and we are back to 100% free enterprise capitalism. What a day that will be!

  • rickc

    Dave r,Please explain in words of one syllable, or less, just what the hell you mean by that statement.
    Calling you stupid is like putting lipstick on a pig,it's still a pig

  • Rusty Franklin

    Congratulations President Roberts once again you have demonstrated what leadership from the heart can accomplish .
    This was an impossible lose-lose situation legally. But when the Leadership and the membership focus on the goal impossible things get accomplished!!
    Great job and I'm proud to be a UMWA member! Thank you

  • Bobby

    Great job Mr. Roberts!

    This is unprecedented. To bargain with a company that a judge allowed to strip away just about everything from the workers and get so much back is just unheard of.

    If you don't believe it just ask a hostess worker or a steelworker.

    The miners are blessed to have such great leadership.

    I have never belonged to a union but after watching this unfold, if I could join one, it would be the UMWA.

    • debbie

      You are exactly right on!!

  • dave r

    CECIL ROBERTS...kills off another company...the unions have to go!!!!!!!

    • Elmer Beamer

      When the Union goes We won't have anything

      • WVWho

        When the Unions go we won't have anything....funniest post I've read in weeks on here!

    • debbie

      you are an idiot!

      • debbie

        Dave you are an idiot!!