Members of United Mine Workers of America (U.M.W.A.), Local Number 5958 attended the Logan County Commission to solicit their support to fight contract changes Patriot Coal wants to make.
Patriot has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to modify collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America, allowing the company to cut health care coverage for retired miners. If the court allows the modification, more than 1,100 retired coal miners and their families in Logan County will be affected.
Roger Horton, Gary Epperhart, Kevin Luthy and Hubert (Skeeter) Lowe brought a resolution to read the commission and asked them to send letters of support to legislators and anyone else who could possibly be of assistance.
Commission President Danny Godby told them they will support their efforts 100 percent.
“I was born and raised in a coal camp and my dad worked in the company store. I understood the life of a coal miner and took it very seriously. In fact, in the last couple of years, we have been on several trips talking about the importance of coal and how it affects our county, especially coal severance money coming into the county that helps everybody. We as a commission, want to say that we will stand behind you 100 percent. Nobody wants to work all their life and then lose their benefits when they retire. This is something that we just cannot let happen,” said Godby, “We will send every letter we possibly can. We will always stand up for coal.”
Commissioner Danny Ellis echoed Godby’s pledge of support and said the commission would adopt a resolution and instruct their staff to pass it along to the city of Logan and towns of Man and Chapmanville, attaching a copy of the U.M.W.A. resolution.
Retired miner Hubert “Skeeter”Lowe talked about how the change affects him.
“I retired after 33 years of working in the mines. What is so ironic about that is I never worked a day for Patriot Coal. I’m in danger of losing my health care and I never worked a day for them. There are hundreds of people like me out there that are going to lose benefits that were promised to them for the rest of their lives.”
Glen Tomblin, who started out working for Arch Coal stepped up to tell his story.
“This thing that is going on now with Peabody and Arch affects the whole country. If they are able to pull this off, other companies, not only coal companies, will follow suit. This is a nationwide problem. There are many people in Logan County that use U.M.W.A. insurance. It is the best insurance and it pays the most. I take high blood pressure medication. I use a bi-pap machine that costs the insurance hundreds of dollars a month to rent. I use oodles of medication. If I lose my health benefits, I may have to choose between food and medication and really, you can’t live without both. We need to pull together and keep this insurance for everyone, the widows and the ones up there in age. We appreciate anything you can do to help us.”