Dozens Arrested during Mine Worker Rally

By: Brooks Jarosz; Jeremy Edwards; The Associated Press Email
By: Brooks Jarosz; Jeremy Edwards; The Associated Press Email
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UPDATE 5/21/13
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Another round of protests involving United Mine Workers of America and their supporters results in about a dozen arrests in downtown St. Louis.

Several hundred protesters gathered again Tuesday near the federal courthouse, the site of a recent bankruptcy case involving St. Louis-based Patriot Coal. The protesters were peacefully arrested for sitting in the street.

Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July. Protesters are angry about Patriot's plan to cut health-care and retirement benefits. Patriot says the moves are necessary to keep the company afloat.

Similar arrests have occurred at other protests in St. Louis in recent months.



UPDATE 4/1/13 @ 8 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than 15 protesters were taken away in handcuffs Monday following a massive march in the streets of downtown Charleston.

Union members are fighting to save health care benefits for miners and retirees at Patriot Coal.

Patriot is in bankruptcy and trying to restructure. Union leaders say it comes on the back of more than 23,000 retired coal miners.

Thousands of miners, along with faith leaders and dignitaries, joined together. More than 50 busloads of protestors arrived from seven states to show strength in numbers.

Rally organizers say they are all united and fighting, mentioning that a promise made should be a promise kept.

"This company's trying to take everything we work hard for," one protestor said. "Our pensions, our healthcare, that's what I'm arrested for!"

Dignitaries spoke as the crowd crammed into the Charleston Civic Center.

State and federal lawmakers are working on legislation to force Patriot to pay and live up to the contracts it had with its retirees.

Patriot said in a statement it is not proposing to eliminate healthcare. The company says its proposal allows for continued coverage of union retirees at a level Patriot can afford.

"We need our health card -- we need our benefits," retired miner Clifton Banks said. "They promised us benefits; we should get it."

Banks says he has had surgery and his medical bills are costly. He can't imagine not having health insurance.

"It means we won't be able to go to the doctor -- won't be able to afford it," Banks said.

"I'll be arrested four times and five times and six times until justice prevails," UMWA president Cecil Roberts said.

The demonstration had at least 16 protestors ignoring a police order and crossing the line. They were arrested following a march through downtown Charleston to Patriot's West Virginia offices in Laidley Tower.

"I don't know if they're listening but they will -- sooner or later," one protestor said. "They worked 30, 40, 50 years to get it and now they're trying to take it away and that's just wrong!"

Union members hope the message sent is one of fairness and responsibility, following what they say is their sacrifice.

St. Louis-based Patriot is trying to shed some of that $1.6 billion liability as it restructures.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/1/13 @ 1 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than a dozen people have been arrested during a Patriot Coal protest in Charleston.

Police tell WSAZ.com 16 people were taken away in handcuffs.

The United Mine Workers put the rally and march together. Organizers say about 7,000 people showed up for the rally.

The rally started at the Charleston Civic Center and then the group marched to Patriot Coal's office, which is located in the Laidley Tower in downtown Charleston.

The union claims Patriot Coal is making plans to cut its pension and healthcare programs. The company denies that claim.

The street in front of Patriot's offices is still filled with protesters, but they are beginning to break up.

We have a crew at the rally. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/1/13 @ 10:35 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Thousands have gathered in Charleston to protest Patriot Coal.

The United Mine Workers are holding a rally and march.

The union claims Patriot Coal is making plans to cut its pension and healthcare programs. The company denies that claim.

The event started with a prayer service at the Charleston Civic Center, now a rally is underway.

After it wraps up, they will march to Patriot Coal's offices in the Laidley Tower.

At 11 a.m., Charleston Police will close Clendenin Street between Quarrier and Lee Streets. Then, the march will proceed at 11:30 a.m. The march is expected to head south on Clendenin Street to Virginia Street, East on Virginia Street to Court Street, North on Court Street to the area between Lee Street and Washington Street (between the Embassy Suites and Laidley Towers).

According to a news release, traffic on the cross streets will be stopped long enough for the march to pass, traffic on Virginia Street and Court Street will be stopped while the march is proceeding, however it will be re-opened as soon as possible.

Charleston Police say Court Street, between Lee Street and Washington Street will be closed until approximately 1 p.m.

We have a crew at the rally. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/30/13 @ 6:35 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Several streets will be closed Monday for a rally in downtown Charleston.

The United Mine Workers is planning a rally and march against Patriot Coal. The union claims Patriot Coal is making plans to to cut its pension and healthcare programs. The company denies that claim.

Monday's rally is expected to start at 10 a.m. at the Charleston Civic Center. Thousands are expected to attend.

Union members are expected to start arriving at 9 a.m. Monday. This could cause traffic congestion in the area.

At 11 a.m., Charleston Police will close Clendenin Street between Quarrier and Lee Streets. Then, the march will proceed at 11:30 a.m. The march is expected to head south o Clendenin Street to Virginia Street, East on Virginia Street to Court Street, North on Court Street to the area between Lee Street and Washington Street (between the Embassy Suites and Laidley Towers).

According to a news release. traffic on the cross streets will be stopped long enough for the march to pass, traffic on Virginia Street and Court Street will be stopped while the march is proceeding, however it will be re-opened as soon as possible.

Charleston Police say Court Street, between Lee Street and Washington Street will be closed until approximately 1 p.m.

After the march, the group will gather on Court Street, between Lee Street and Washington Street.

Statement from Patriot Coal:
“Contrary to incorrect statements in the media, Patriot Coal is not proposing to eliminate healthcare for UMWA retirees. In fact, the Company’s proposal could make hundreds of millions of dollars available to provide meaningful long-term healthcare benefits for these retirees. In addition, Coal Act and Black Lung beneficiaries would continue to receive their current benefits. Patriot’s proposal allows for continued healthcare coverage for union retirees at a level that Patriot can afford while allowing Patriot to survive, emerge from bankruptcy and preserve thousands of jobs.”

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/26/13 @ 6:35 p.m.
BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Fighting to protect their benefits, thousands of miners and retirees have been hitting the streets to protest a plan by Patriot Coal to cut its pension and health care programs.

The company says it can no longer afford it. Miners and their families say the move would be devastating.

Patriot Coal says its retiree health liability has ballooned to $1.6 billion. It has proposed funding $300 million of those benefits through a trust. However, some families say that still leaves them on the losing end.

Jennifer Scott counts and sorts pills at least once a week, living in fear.

"Oh, it scares me to death," Jennifer Scott said.

She says she never knows when the money or medication will run short. Her husband, George, is a retired coal miner. He spent decades traveling 20 minutes to work at the Hobet Mine in Boone County.

"I can't stand for long," George Scott said. "If I do, I will start wobbling back and forth."

Today, he spends time at home watching TV, depending on his wife for care and worrying.

"It's really upsetting because my husband has a lot of health issues," Jennifer Scott said. "They might as well put a gun to our heads."

Patriot says it has to protect itself after going into bankruptcy. However, the Scotts say they're worried about costs, too. The estimate is $13,000 a year just in medication.

"Now that he's older, they just want to disregard him like he's a piece of trash," Jennifer Scott said.

George's mind might be a little fuzzy now, but his livelihood is always top of mind.

"One thing I know is Patriot Coal needs to step up and do what they're supposed to do," George Scott said.

Now they're fighting for a future that allows them to live without fear.

Patriot Coal responded with a statement saying:

"Contrary to incorrect statements in the media, Patriot Coal is not proposing to eliminate healthcare for UMWA retirees. In fact, the Company's proposal could make hundreds of millions of dollars available to provide meaningful long-term healthcare benefits for these retirees. In addition, Coal Act and Black Lung beneficiaries would continue to receive their current benefits. Patriot's proposal allows for continued healthcare coverage for union retirees at a level that Patriot can afford while allowing Patriot to survive, emerge from bankruptcy and preserve thousands of jobs."

House Republicans want Patriot to honor its promises. Delegates voted overwhelmingly for a non-binding measure targeting the company.

The United Mine Workers of America is also protesting Patriot's plan. It will start at 10 a.m. Monday at the Charleston Civic Center. Thousands are expected to attend.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/7/12 @ 11:55 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A bankruptcy judge in New York has approved an $802 million financing package for Patriot Coal Corp. to continue operations as it restructures.

Other orders issued last week by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley C. Chapman allow St. Louis-based Patriot to continue paying wages and providing benefits to employees, and to continue using existing customer programs.

Patriot said Monday in a news release that its mining operations and coal shipments are continuing.

Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 9 as it deals with reduced demand for coal and rising prices.

Chairman and CEO Irl F. Englehardt says the company is continuing to identify changes needed to ensure its viability.

Patriot has 12 mining complexes in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin.



UPDATE 7/9/12 @ 10:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Patriot Coal Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Monday afternoon.

St. Louis-based Patriot Coal operates mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.

The company has received more than $800 million from several banks to help keep it in business. Company officials say their mining operations and customer shipments will continue normally through the bankruptcy process.

Patriot has been struggling as prices have fallen for coal used in both power plants and steel making.



ORIGINAL STORY 1/13/12
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Patriot Coal Corp. is idling five underground mines in southern West Virginia.

The company attributes the decision to declining demand for metallurgical coal. Met coal is used to make steel.

The closures announced Friday include two mines operated by subsidiaries and two operated by contractors in Patriot Coal's Rocklick complex, and two mines operated by contractors in the Wells complex.

President and CEO Richard M. Whiting says in a news release that demand for met coal has steadily declined recently. But that is expected to change as world economies return to normal growth rates.

Whiting says Patriot Coal expects to resume much of the cut production as demand improves.

St. Louis-based Patriot Coal operates mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.


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