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UMWA Rallies In St. Louis

Adam Allington
St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of United Mine Workers and supporters marched in St. Louis Wednesday as part of a rally in front of the corporate headquarters of Peabody Energy. Miners are protesting the potential loss of health benefits.

UMWA District 17 Vice President Joe Carter claims Peabody and Arch Coal created a subsidiary mining company in 2007 known as Patriot Coal to offload more than $500 million in miner medical benefits. Patriot has since declared bankruptcy. Carter claims the health benefits of more than 20,000 retired miners and their families in Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia are at risk.  He says the union is ready for a long fight.

“If we have to come back time and time again, we are not going to stop until the right outcome of patriot bankrupts comes to pass,” Carter said.

Carter says the miner's benefits are in danger if the bankruptcy court releases Patriot from its outstanding debts.

Greg Frazier is with AFSCME in Louisville, Kentucky.  He says he made the trip as a show of solidarity.

“Healthcare is one of the things that we have been supportive of all along, and we are dealing with issues of our own where we’ve got employers taking away benefits they have promised to retirees and people have worked their whole lives for,” Frazier said. “Once they get to the point of retiring, they are maybe not be there.”

Peabody says it has lived up to its pension obligations.  Company spokesman Vic Svec has said previously that this is a decision for a bankruptcy judge and not the court of public opinion.

Miners and union members from as far away as Alabama and West Virginia took part in yesterday's rally in St. Louis.

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