ST. LOUIS – Sixteen people were arrested including a Reverend as more than 1,500 people protested in downtown St. Louis as Patriot Coal began to argue to a federal bankruptcy judge that it needs to significantly cut health care and pension benefits for its union workers, who protest the move.
Rev. David Gerth, 11 retired miners and four others were arrested Monday afternoon after refusing to comply with demands from a police officer.
Attorneys for Patriot Coal Corp. and the United Mine Workers of America were to argue the matter Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis.
St. Louis-based Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer.
Patriot was spun off from Peabody Energy Corp. in 2007. Patriot hit hard times in recent years, with the company citing exceptionally soft coal markets, rising costs and “unsustainable legacy liabilities” tied to the spin-off.
An estimated 1,750 United Mine Workers of America members rallied outside the federal courthouse as the hearing began.
“The union continues to grandstand when it knows that this matter will be decided in the courts,” Peabody officials said in response to the protests.
The union says Patriot was set up to fail in a deliberate plan to end benefit obligations to retirees. Patriot and Peabody deny that claim.
“Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so. This is a matter between the union and Patriot Coal, and will be decided in the bankruptcy court,” said Peabody officials.
The 16 arrested were released from police custody a short time later.