The United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network was joined by staff members of the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and several bishops in endorsing an open letter criticizing the “scheme” of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to eliminate health care for more than 23,000 retired workers.
The open letter coordinated by Religious Leaders for Coalfield Justice (RLCJ), Stanton, Ky., and Interfaith Work Justice (IWJ), Chicago, was endorsed by more than 200 religious leaders and organizations. The letter was the latest in a long-running confrontation with Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world, over its attempts to undermine contracts it has signed with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at some of its mines, and the company’s efforts to block unions at others.
This week IWJ and RLCJ released the results of a fact-finding mission that looked into the plight of more than 23,000 retired Peabody and Arch miners who could lose their health care as a result of demands in U.S. Bankruptcy Court by Patriot Coal, a spin-off company created to hold Peabody and Arch’s obligations, including retiree benefits. By declaring bankruptcy, Patriot hopes to eliminate some $1.6 billion in health-care and retirement security obligations.