Miners, supporters gather in WV for Patriot protest - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Miners, supporters gather in WV for Patriot protest

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Wayne Thompson, a member of UMWA Local 1793 in western Kentucky, was on a bus at 1 a.m. Monday for the trip to save his retirement and health benefits.

Thompson was one of several hundred miners gathered outside the Charleston Civic Center before 9 a.m. in anticipation for a rally inside and outside to draw attention to plans by Patriot Coal Co. to shed its retirement and health care obligations to its employees via bankruptcy court.

"We're here to protect what Peabody Coal is trying to do to us," said Thompson, referring to one of the two coal companies that contributed mines with high legacy costs when they formed Patriot Coal.

"This is not the first time companies have tried to do this. It's got to stop somewhere, and we intend to stop it, and this is just the beginning," Thompson said.

Thompson said he spent 27 years working underground in a Peabody mine that went to Patriot after he retired. He said he "never worked a day in my life for Patriot."

Thompson said he has two herniated disks and three stents, and he has had triple bypass surgery. And, he has been in remission from cancer for seven years.

"We knew we were giving up our health the day we entered the coal mine. Health care is very important to us. They promised. They lied," he said.

The UMWA planned to bus about 5,000 people from seven states for the rally. The rally will begin at the Civic Center, and at 11:30 a.m. miners and supporters will gather at Laidley Tower, the home of Patriot's West Virginia office.