Peabody: UMWA’s troubles ‘between the union and Patriot Coal’ - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Peabody: UMWA’s troubles ‘between the union and Patriot Coal’

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With union workers picketing at its doorstep, Peabody Energy said Tuesday that the fight for benefits is between Patriot and the unions.

Patriot Coal was created from a spinoff of assets from Peabody. Union workers Tuesday protested as part of a larger campaign to protect certain worker benefits as Patriot faces bankruptcy.

More than 750 members and supports of the United Mine Workers of America rallied in front of a U.S. courthouse in St. Louis before marching to Peabody Energy headquarters. The march occurred at the same time the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri kicked off hearings. Ten members were arrested.

Peabody refutes the union's claim that Patriot was intentionally constructed to fail in order to dispose of worker liabilities.

"Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt levels and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year," stated a response provided by Peabody Energy. "At the time, trade publications cited the dream team of top management, and analysts touted a bright future based on solid prospects and a strong balance sheet."

The statement went on to explain "major events" that occurred after Patriot was made independent, but before the bankruptcy.

"Patriot chose to make a major acquisition, went through the global financial crisis and effects of low-cost shale gas on coal demand, experienced EPA regulation that significantly raised environmental compliance costs, and saw metallurgical coal prices decline," the Peabody statement points out.

In addition, the UMWA and its leadership "specifically signed off on the retiree benefit payment structure with which Patriot started," the Peabody statement said.

"Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so," the Peabody statement continued. "The UMWA is fully aware that this is a matter solely between the union and Patriot Coal, and the proper process for deciding such issues is through the bankruptcy court – not the court of public opinion."

The initial State Journal story about the UMWA arrest is available here.