The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 20, 2013

More work to do

— Members of the United Mine Workers of America who work at Patriot Coal operations in West Virginia and Kentucky ratified a settlement Friday that the union reached with the company that the union believes “makes significant improvements in terms and conditions of employment over a federal bankruptcy judge’s order from last May.”

The final tally was 85 percent in favor to 15 percent opposed in the vote.

We are pleased that both sides apparently were able to come up with a workable solution that will not only keep Patriot going, but also will keep its miners working and their families taken care of.

As many of our readers know firsthand, these coal miners performed their daily tasks and faced extreme risks, while also working under the belief and expectation of having retirement and health insurance benefits.

They and their families did not deserve to have to fight for their benefits. They were promised them.

Many Americans have benefited from our miners’ work, through the energy that’s provided from the coal they’ve mined and the revenue generated.

Coal plays a major role in the success of our region and our state.

And for many of our readers, both directly or indirectly.

But the story isn’t over.

While the recent vote is good news for current Patriot miners, UMWA President Cecil Roberts noted that the settlement “does not provide enough resources to fulfill the lifetime health care benefits that Peabody and Arch agreed to provide to thousands of retirees from those companies,” in a UMWA press release.

On Dec. 31, 2005, Arch Coal sold certain Central Appalachian mining operations and coal reserves to Magnum Coal Co. On July 23, 2008, Patriot Coal acquired Magnum Coal, one of the largest coal producers in Appalachia. (

On Oct. 31, 2007, Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody Energy. As a result of the spin-off, Patriot became a separate, public company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. At the time of the spin-off, Patriot was a leading producer of coal in the eastern U.S. (

A contract is a promise.

Taking over another company’s assets also means taking over its liabilities — and commitments.

Our hope is that those miners and their families also get what they lived — and many may have died — for.

A fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage — and their retirement benefits which include health care.

They deserve that as well.