Arch Coal Files for Bankruptcy, Foreshaddows Shirk of Mine Worker Pensions and Healthcare

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           

January 11, 2016

Contact: Caitlin Lee, (713) 504-6866, caitlin@organizemo.org

Arch Coal Files for Bankruptcy, Foreshadows Shirk of Mine Worker Pensions and Healthcare

St. Louis Residents call for Just Transition to Solidarity Economy

 

ST. LOUIS -- Following the bankruptcies of 6 other coal companies in 2015, Arch Coal, headquartered in St. Louis County, filed for bankruptcy today.

 

Arch Coal’s bankruptcy is further evidence that St. Louis needs a Just Transition away from unsustainable energy corporations and towards a local solidarity economy. Will Mayor Slay continue to lend his office to this sinking industry? Commitment to a Just Transition strategy for the city is necessary and long overdue.

 

Patriot Coal is example of what is to come for Arch workers. In the mid 2000s Arch and Peabody Energy created Patriot when they pulled out of Appalachia. In 2012 Patriot went bankrupt (arguably by design) and the company shed its responsibility to worker pension and healthcare. United Mine Workers of America represented workers in court, led an aggressive public relations campaign against Arch and Peabody, and practiced direct actions, eventually settling for a fraction of Arch’s original obligation.

 

Because Arch does not operate any union mines, Arch miners will not have representation in bankruptcy court. While hedge funds and CEOs will be paid, Arch mine worker pensions and healthcare will most likely be one of the first obligations to be dropped. With miners suffering from mining related illness and no health care, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) members ask, “How can Arch Coal CEO John Eaves sleep well at night?”

 

MORE demands a Just Transition towards a solidarity economy for the region that both creates green jobs, particularly in low income neighborhoods, and ensures important benefits and green job training for coal industry workers. The strategy would encourage investment in the opening of city-held land for renewable energy and sustainability initiatives.

 

One of St. Louis’s other three coal companies Peabody Energy, the largest private coal extraction company in the world, is also expected to file for bankruptcy later this year. St. Louis City has financially supported coal companies--especially Peabody. In 2010 the city granted Peabody Energy a $61 million dollar tax break, diverting funds away from the public school system. This summer Peabody laid off around 250 employees from their St. Louis corporate office. Will St. Louis residents be refunded for this investment in Peabody’s corporate office? Could Peabody Plaza be turned over to the city for a Just Transition implementation office?

 

The boom and bust cycle of coal is on its last bust, and we need to account for the wreckage that will be left behind -- the mine workers left in the dust without pensions and healthcare, the extraction zones in need of true reclamation, and the local economies, including St. Louis’s. We need a Just Transition that accounts for the responsibilities that corporations like Arch Coal and Peabody Energy run away from during bankruptcies.

 

"These coal corporations regularly disregard the health, homes and livelihoods of average people and continue to build their empires by profiting from this oppression. The violent apathy of Mayor Slay and other elected officials to the very real struggles for survival in the face of coal is embarrassing and shameful. St. Louis has the opportunity to be a leader in Just Transition strategies; it is deeply troubling that they do not see this as imperative," said St. Louis resident Basmin Nadra.

 

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) is a St. Louis based economic, climate, and racial justice organizing group made up of low and moderate income residents. As bankruptcy proceedings begin MORE will continue to fight the corporate coal economy in St. Louis to create a just and sustainable city.

 

(MORE members available for comment.)

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Demand Just Transition action from Mayor Slay. Sign the petition here.

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published this page in Blog 2016-01-11 13:23:06 -0600