CHARLESTON (AP) — The United Mine Workers is concerned about Patriot Coal Corp.’s bankruptcy reorganization plan and its impact on its members.
The concern involves Patriot’s “legacy costs” such as health-care benefits and pension payments. The company called them “substantial and unsustainable” in its Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.
Patriot sought protection from its creditors in its filing July 9 as it deals with reduced demand for coal and rising costs.
UMW lawyers are seeking to have the reorganization case moved from New York to southern West Virginia, where they say such issues should properly be handled.
“Nobody mines coal in New York,” the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/PukyvY) reported Saturday, quoting filings by union lawyers. “Significant issues in this case — whether mines are shut, whether employee wages and benefits are cut — will all directly affect the West Virginia economy while having no such effect in New York.”
Patriot operates large surface and underground mines in West Virginia.
UMW officials say Patriot has 2,000 active union members in West Virginia and Kentucky. Its retirees total more than 10,000, with an additional 10,000 dependents.
“The UMWA will bring every resource to bear on behalf of our membership as this process unfolds,” union President Cecil Roberts said in a prepared statement.
Chief Patriot financial officer Mark Schroeder, in a company filing with the court, said the company is responsible for benefits to more than three times the number of retirees as Patriot currently employs as active miners.
Patriot said it will continue shipping and mining operations. It has received a commitment for $802 million in debt financing from Citigroup Global Markets, Barclays Bank, and Merrill Lynch.