Single Payer Now

Posted: Feb 19th, 2013

News & Video

Miners arrested in fight to end Peabody’s stealing of health benefits

By Kay Tillow

St. Louis, MO.  February 13, 2013.  Shirley Inman was arrested for
peaceful, civil disobedience as she protested at the Peabody Energy
headquarters against the corporate threat to rob miners and their families
of the health benefits they have earned.  Inman, a member of United Mine
Workers of America Local 2286 in Madison, West Virginia, spent 18 years
driving a coal truck.  Head held high, Inman faced arrest with a
determination much greater than her petite stature.  She is serious about
this fight.

“If I can’t get my medication for my heart disease, I won’t be around much
longer,” said Inman. “I’m a breast cancer survivor and I have coronary
artery disease. Health care isn’t an option for me; it’s what I need to
survive. I’ll do whatever it takes to make these corporate executives keep
the promises they made — and if that means going to jail, so be it.”

Inman was arrested with nine of her union brothers, including UMWA
Secretary Treasurer Dan Kane.  This was the second set of arrests at
Peabody Energy, and it looks like there will be more to come.  On January
29 UMWA President Cecil Roberts was arrested with the first group, but he
was not present for this rally because of negotiations.

In 2007, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal spun off a large chunk of their
health care and retirement obligations to a new entity called Patriot
Coal.  In a financial and bankruptcy transaction that UMWA Vice President
from Alabama, Daryl Dewberry, described as “nickel slick”, Peabody Energy
and Arch Coal are trying to wash their hands of responsibility for the
health benefits for which they had signed contracts.

There was an air of militancy as more than 1,000 miners and supporters
marched to the park and rallied between the St. Louis arch and the Peabody
headquarters prior to the arrests.  There was emotion also.  Health care
hits close to the heart.  The union has challenged the theft of benefits
in court, and the case has been moved to St. Louis.  Concerned that
bankruptcy law may not be adequate to protect these benefits, the miners
say they will win this battle by appealing to a higher moral law.

Dan Kane, UMWA Secretary Treasurer explained.  “They intentionally put
Patriot in the position for bankruptcy.  They want this in the bankruptcy
court—they don’t want it in the court of public opinion.  This is about
every man and woman who works for a living.  Health care and pension are
not gifts.  You paid for it.  But these companies are using bankruptcy
more and more.  Lawyers will get paid.  Million dollar bonuses will go to
executives.  The heads of Patriot won’t suffer.  Those who did the work
walk out with nothing.  That has to stop.  We don’t want their sympathy.
What we want is justice.”

“We want what we’ve earned,” said Kane.  “They want to go to their
palatial homes—but they deserve a cell next to Bernie Madoff.  I’m tired
of an economy that walks all over the workers.  I look for a day when we
win the fight so every person who wants to can be in a union without
interference.  And next, I look for a day when each and every one drops
their tools and sits down for a day and tells the executives here’s what
it’s like without us.”  The protesters roared approval.

Dewberry said the UMWA was founded in 1890 “when it was not popular to
have all creeds and colors together, but we did it and we’ve been doing it
for over 100 years.”  He said that miners are “used to adversity and we
are all our brothers’ keepers.  Peabody left scars in Alabama.  Arch left
scars in Alabama.  They left black lung.  Miners took less benefits to
assure health care.”

“Know this, Peabody, we’re seasoned and we ain’t backing down from
nothing,” continued Dewberry.   “Our members have been shot at and burned
out and turned out since 1890 and nobody is going to turn us around.”  He
then compared the times with an earlier era when Abraham Lincoln said,
“…©orporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high
places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to
prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all
wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed.”
Dewberry declared of Peabody “They don’t know what a fight is, but we’ll
take ‘em on.”

James Gibbs, UMWA Vice President from West Virginia and a third generation
coal miner spoke.  “I think about Peabody and Arch and how they lied to
our retirees who today walk with canes and walkers and carry bottles of
oxygen after working all these years.  They were promised health care for
all their lives.  We’re not going to let Peabody get by with this.  It’s
not right.”

Reflecting the common heritage of the union with the civil rights
movement, Gibbs related the story of Rosa Parks.  Then he told of his
father who worked the last 30 years in the mine with an artificial leg,
“yet Pittston didn’t mind a bit to try to take their benefits.  But
Pittston didn’t win that fight.  We win when we are right.”  He was
referring to the 14 month struggle in 1989 when Pittston sought to
discontinue medical benefits to miners, retirees and the disabled.
Pittston was met with massive resistance when miners and their families by
the thousands engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to bring the
company to its knees and to a contract.

The ten volunteers for civil disobedience led the crowd to the street
beside the gleaming Peabody Energy headquarters where they were arrested.
The police secured their wrists with white plastic handcuffs and took them
away.  UMWA Vice President Steve Earle announced “We’ll be back in a
couple of weeks.”

The UMWA is taking on a big fight that will impact all workers and our
ability to stop crooked bankruptcies from destroying health coverage.
Please sign the petition to support the miners here:

Then ask your local union to endorse HR 676, national single payer health
care, so that we can free our health care from corporate control and
assure all medically necessary care for everyone.

Sample resolution is here:

You can watch the video of the February 13, 2013 rally and sit in here:

(The video begins with Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan
introducing Paul Whiteley to sing about  Peabody–lyrics by Paul and

Background on single payer:  Cecil Roberts speaks on single payer health care here:
Distributed by:
All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

Email: nursenpoataoldotcom  (nursenpoataoldotcom)  

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