Workers march against union-free stance

RESPONDING to Peabody Energy’s position on union-free operations, several hundred US miners rallied through downtown St. Louis, Missouri last week, insisting the company let its workers unionise.

Donna Schmidt

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) workers took to the streets in protest while the organisation president Cecil Roberts said Peabody was using intimidation tactics and dismissals to force union workers off its payroll, according to the Associated Press.


The aggressive nature in which Peabody was forcing its anti-union beliefs, Roberts continued, was preventing miners from organising.


Peabody’s workers were about 80%-union two decades ago, according to Roberts. That number is now less than 30%, or approximately 7900.


As media met with Peabody spokesperson Vic Svec inside the company’s headquarters, Svec denied the “firing union sympathisers” claim by the UMWA, adding he felt the industry was moving away from unions. “The trend with Peabody, and with the coal industry everywhere, is toward union-free operations,” he said.


Svec spoke with the media, who met in Peabody’s offices as chanting of “end corporate greed” continued outside, and said Peabody had chosen to open more non-union operations because of the increased ability for direct communication with mine workers.


Some of the company’s most lucrative and safest-running mines, he added, were not unionised.


Roberts told the Associated Press the rally was meant to increase pressure on Peabody to allow unionisation at its facilities. The UMWA had chosen not to involve the National Labor Relations Board, a federal regulatory group that can form a union through a voting process; Roberts called the method “broken” and said “we will not engage in a process that it doomed for failure”