UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy

OFFICIALS with the nation’s largest union, the United Mine Workers of America, have met with dozens of its union locals to prepare a game plan for the impact of Patriot Coal’s recent bankruptcy filing on current and retired union members.
UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy UMWA wades into Patriot bankruptcy

UMWA president Cecil Roberts

Donna Schmidt

The UMWA met with more than 100 officials representing 35 local UMWA halls in a five-state region to discuss the recently announced bankruptcy by the St Louis-based producer.

About 2000 of its active union members will be affected by the move, as well as retired workers and their families.

UMWA international president Cecil Roberts addressed the leaders and provided an update on the status of the filing, as well as the likely next steps.

He pledged to the officials that the UMWA “will bring every resource to bear on behalf of our membership” as the bankruptcy continued to unfold.

Roberts said 22,000 active and retired members and dependents, mostly in West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, would feel the impact.

The union also confirmed it had filed a motion to transfer the case from its original filing location in the US Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York to the Southern District of West Virginia.

“You never know what will happen in bankruptcy court,” UMWA communications director Phil Smith told the Evansville Courier and Press.

“What frequently does happen is the company goes to the bankruptcy judge and says they either need to get out of a contract entirely or make significant changes to it.”

If that involved a union contract, he told the paper, the judge would instruct the company to negotiate.

“And we will do that,” he said, adding that the only trouble would be if “we're requested to do something greater than what we are willing to do”

He also commented on the motion to move Patriot’s case.

"This case belongs in the coalfields," Smith told the paper.

“There is not a single ounce of Patriot coal in New York.”

Patriot, created as a spin-off company from Peabody Coal in 2007, was established to primarily focus on Appalachia.

It filed its voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition earlier this month, reporting it had $3.57 billion in assets and $3.07 billion of liabilities.

Just days later it secured an additional $802 million of financing to help it continue operations during the reorganization.

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