(KMOV) – Hundreds of mine workers converged on downtown St. Louis Tuesday to protest against Peabody Energy Corp.
The United Mine Workers of America union obtained permits to occupy the area to march against the company they say has cheated them out of healthcare benefits.
A march started at Peabody Plaza and eventually ended up at Kiener Plaza for a rally at 10 a.m. Police closed some of the downtown streets altogether.
Union leaders claim Peabody orchestrated the collapse of a spinoff company, Patriot Coal, so the company wouldn’t be responsible for the health care and pensions of thousands of coal workers.
Patriot Coal is now in bankruptcy court.
The march comes a day after Peabody announced the UMWA rejected an offer for settlement of all claims with the union which could have been used to provide 3,100 Patriot Coal retirees with lifetime healthcare benefits comparable to those of Peabody’s active corporate employees.
“UMWA President Cecil Roberts claims to be concerned about his members,” said Svec. “So why did he not accept a settlement amount large enough to provide 3,100 retirees with lifetime healthcare benefits comparable with those of Peabody’s active corporate employees? The UMWA retirees who have been traveling to St. Louis to rally for healthcare benefits have a right to know that a good faith settlement offer was on the table, and that union leadership rejected it.”
An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ bankruptcy panel on Aug. 14 overturned U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States’ May ruling that Peabody no longer was obliged to pay the benefits. That ruling linked to the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal Corp., which Peabody spun off in 2007.
While the United Mine Workers of America union cheered the development, Peabody says the panel didn’t rule on the level of funding required to meet future obligations.
Peabody added the court found the company was obligated to make the payments until a new labor agreement was approved between Patriot and the UMWA.