Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant rallied with West Virginia coal miners and their families this morning, urging Patriot Coal to keep its promises and fully fund health care and retirement benefits.
Secretary Tennant said she is sending a letter to Chairman Michael M. Scharf expressing deep concern over the impact Patriot’s bankruptcy proceeding may have on thousands of West Virginia families and the state’s economy.
“This is more than an attack on union workers,” Secretary Tennant said at the rally. “This is an attack on the American worker and on our American way of life. Today, it’s an attempt to take away your health care that was earned on your broken backs, with your black lungs and with the memories of your fellow miners who took their last breath in the coal mines. Tomorrow it could be the attack on construction workers, nurses, secretaries, teachers, and police officers.”
Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy protection on July 9, 2012 in federal court in Manhattan. On March 14, Patriot formally filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to terminate benefits for about 10,000 retired miners and 12,000 widows and dependents.
Thousands of coal miners, some from surrounding states, rallied at the Charleston Civic Center before marching to Patriot’s Charleston offices in Laidley Tower. Cecil Roberts, United Mine Workers of America President, addressed the crowd, as did Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO President.
“I have sent a letter to the Chairman of Patriot Coal Corporation Michael M. Scharf telling him what he is attempting to do is wrong. It breaks the bond that makes this country great and what built this country. It breaks the bond that your word matters. Patriot’s pledge to workers and their families must be honored. I stand not just with you, but with all West Virginia workers – union and non-union – who have given the best years of their lives for their employer with the expectations that what they worked for and what they were promised will be there when they need it the most.”
The full text of Secretary Tennant's letter can be seen here.