Justice for mine workers is worth an arrest

Kim Bobo |

kim bobo in st. louisYesterday, I was arrested. My teenage son asked, "Why’d you get arrested mom?" Technically, I was refusing to move out of the street in front of the St. Louis federal court house.

But the "real" reason I was arrested was to publicly demonstrate support for the United Mine Workers struggle against Peabody Energy’s stealing of retired miners’ health care and pensions.

The United Mine Workers are locked in a David and Goliath struggle to protect 22,000 miners and their families. In 2007, Peabody Energy, the Goliath of the coal world, set up another company. Patriot Coal, the new company, took on some of Peabody's operations east of the Mississippi River and nearly all of Peabody's retiree health and pension obligations. The company was structured to function in the good times, but not to survive the bad times and coal has historically had good years and bad.  As predicted by the UMWA, in 2012 Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy. In the bankruptcy reorganization, Patriot is seeking to offload all these so-called "legacy costs" (the health and pensions for retirees, widowers and kids).

Yesterday, I sat through several hours of a hearing in bankruptcy court. Patriot Coal wants to offer $6.9 million in retention and incentive pay to approximately 225 staffers, despite seeking to cut all its health care and pensions for retirees.

Retirees are confused. They worked all their lives for Peabody Energy. Today, Peabody is making record profits. But they are being told that Patriot is now their employer and it is going bankrupt. This is a plotting of evil if I’ve ever seen it. In Psalm 64, David lamented similar practices. He wrote:

"They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, ‘Who will see them?’ The plot injustice and say, ‘We have devised a perfect plan!’ Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning."

Indeed, surely the mind and heart of Peabody Energy is cunning. Shame on this company for abandoning its responsibilities for workers. Shame on Patriot Coal for furthering this evil.

We need people of faith across the country to support the these mine workers in their herculean struggle. If you can come out in support, join us at the rally in Charleston, W.Va. on April 1, or the rallies in St. Louis on April 28 and 29. 

Invite clergy and religious leaders you know to sign IWJ's joint statement from religious leaders.