SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts sounded confident Monday that the union would be able to survive the latest Patriot Coal bankruptcy with its pensions and health care intact.
Patriot has indicated it would like to shed the so-called legacy costs during its Chapter 11 proceedings, but Roberts believes otherwise.
“Right now, I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ve been talking to the new owners and they understand this,” Roberts said pointing toward 1,500 active and retired union members who were chanting as part of a rally outside Patriot headquarters in Scott Depot. “They (new owners) may not understand anything else but they understand this. I think we’ll be okay but we have a lot of work to do.”
Patriot is looking for bankruptcy court approval to sell its assets to Kentucky-based Blackhawk Mining and ERP Compliant Fuels, an affiliate of Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund. Roberts told those new companies he had a message for them as he rallied the crowd.
“These are our jobs! Our jobs! Our jobs!”
Roberts promised if the companies try to take away the union’s benefits, impacting 14,000 people, they would be in for a fight.
“We’ll stand in front of your coal mines. We’ll stand in front of your cleaning plants. We’ll block the roads and nobody will have a job,” Roberts said.
The UMWA and Patriot went to battle three years ago under a previous bankruptcy filing. Roberts reminded members Monday they still had their jobs and benefits.
Patriot told the union it would not allow it to march onto its property Monday so Roberts said he planned on getting arrested. When they arrived there, they found the building empty. There were no arrests.