The Henderson Gleaner reports that United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts was one of 14 people arrested at Tuesday's rally in Henderson featuring current and former coal miners.
The group was arrested after staging a sit-down in the middle of the intersection at First and Main Streets following the 90 minute rally at the Henderson County courthouse.
The Gleaner estimates a crowd of around 2,000 showed up for the rally against recent actions by Patriot Coal Corp. Patriot announced it was cutting pension payments to thousands of retirees, something upheld last week by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Miners and their supporters accuse Patriot's parents companies, Peabody Energy Corp., and Arch Coal, of spinning off Patriot and shifting the pension packages of former workers to the new company, knowing it would eventually go bust.
A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.
Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.
"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.
Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.
"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."
Union-backed coal miners in Kentucky and surrounding states are protesting a coal company’s bankruptcy proceedings they say jeopardizes pension and health care benefits for some 20-thousand retirees and dependents. Miners were picketing Wednesday outside Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis.
Two charter buses bound for St. Louis left early Wednesday morning from western Kentucky to join the protest led by the United Mine Workers of Amercia.
Peabody Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal companies and one of the companies the union accuses of orchestrating business deals that bankrupted Patriot Coal.