February 14, 2013
By: John Clark
Ten people were arrested this week at a protest outside the St. Louis headquarters of Peabody Energy, the former parent of Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy protection a few months ago, according to a report from the Huffington Post.
Sources say most of the protestors were members of the United Mine Workers of America, which could lose pension and health care benefits during Patriot Coal’s pending bankruptcy case.
Roughly 1,000 people participated in the latest protest aimed at drawing attention to the bankruptcy filing of Patriot Coal, a former subsidiary of Peabody Energy that gained independence five years ago.
The union, which represents more than 20,000 retired miners, claims that Peabody Energy absolved itself of Patriot Coal in 2007 in order to shed obligations it owed to thousands of current and former employees.
According to Dan Kane, the Secretary Treasure for the union, he and his colleagues "will not be silent" and plan to tell the public "exactly what they're doing." In response to these allegations, officials for Patriot Coal argue that the company is instead trying to help its employees by saving the company.
In a recent statement, company spokeswoman Janine Orf told sources that the decision to file bankruptcy was simply about the company’s "survival," as it tried to remain a "viable employer of 4,000 people."
Orf also noted that the company and its workers are going to have to share the financial sacrifice, and asked for patience while the company’s bankruptcy filing is "working its way through the court."
Another Peabody spokesman, Vic Svec claimed that the union’s allegations were "ludicrous," especially since the union agreed to a collective bargaining agreement after the split from Peabody Energy a few years earlier.
Svec also argued that the Patriot Coal’s financial struggles were mostly unforeseeable at the time the company became independent in 2007.
According to Svec, Patriot had an initial period of success, but was later crippled by the global recession, competition from cheap natural gas, environmental regulations, and a surprise drop in the average price of coal.
Despite these claims, however, the union members plan to continue protesting Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy, according to key officials.