The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 31, 2013

Patriot boondoggle


— Wednesday’s ruling by a federal bankruptcy court judge in St. Louis that will apparently pave the way for Patriot Coal to back out of promised health care and pension benefits for thousands of coal miners and retirees is a slap in the face for those who have worked so hard to keep our country moving forward.

Everyone knows that when times are good in the coal industry, they are good and companies realize huge profits. However, when times are bad, it makes it tough on everyone, including those companies that have failed to properly plan for financial downturns.

Throughout this entire process with Patriot Coal, a spin-off of Peabody Energy, the accusation from the United Mine Workers of America has been that it was an orchestrated maneuver intended to break “the union” and its collective bargaining agreements. Of course, that has been denied.

What really happened remains to be seen.

Now, even though the UMWA has said it will appeal the bankruptcy court ruling, the picture turns gloomy for those who have toiled to mine coal for Patriot/ Peabody.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts may have put it best on Wednesday, when he talked about what is likely to take place next.

“(This decision) is wrong, unfair and fails to fully recognize the coming wave of human suffering that will be experienced by thousands of people throughout the coalfields.”

Those coal miners who have performed this dangerous work under the belief and expectation of having retirement and health insurance benefits should not be treated in this fashion.

Many Americans have benefited from their commitment, whether it be through the use of energy that’s been provided from the coal they’ve mined, or the profits made by the company and its investors.

These miners deserve a better fate.

What’s happening is not the American way, and it’s not right.