Some retired coal miners in western Kentucky are on a mission to protect the retirement benefits they spent years earning.
Six busloads of miners from western Kentucky will rally Monday outside the West Virginia offices of bankrupt Patriot Coal. Miners will pressure Patriot to abandon plans to shed a $1.6 billion dollar liability for pensions and health care benefits. Union leaders claim Peabody Energy and Arch Coal spun off assets and set up Patriot to fail in order to shed retirement obligations.
"Most of these retirees never worked a day for Patriot Coal. They all worked for Peabody Energy or Arch Coal," says spokesman Phil Smith with the United Mine Workers of America. "We've been saying all along that Peabody and Arch need to live up to responsibilities, but also Patriot has a role here to play too, which is to make sure they take other courses of action besides putting these people at risk of having to make life or death decisions."
Patriot says it's the victim of "unforeseen" events," including the global financial crisis, environmental regulations, and a drop in coal prices. Patriot said earlier this month it wants to modify its collective bargaining agreement and create a trust fund for retiree health benefits. The company says the move is needed to save 4,000 jobs.