ST. LOUIS (AP) - Prospects of a strike involving union workers at Patriot Coal Corp. are intensifying after a bankruptcy judge signed off on the company's push to abandon its labor agreement with the miners.
Bargaining between the United Mine Workers of America and St. Louis-based Patriot has taken a break, with the company empowered by the judge's May 29 ruling.
That decision allows Patriot to make deep cuts to benefits for thousands of retirees, while also altering its labor deal involving existing employees.
The union and the company say they are negotiating in good faith, though the union says what's on the table right now may be sent to the membership for consideration of whether a strike is in order.
Patriot counters that a walkout could force it to liquidate.
The United Mine Workers are unhappy with the decision of a bankruptcy court to side with Patriot Coal today. The ruling is the latest chapter in saga concerning benefits for retired miners. Patriot Coal is an independent company, but was created by spinning off part of Peabody Energy. Patriot argued they needed to cut retiree's benefits to stay in business. The Miners argued they had been promised benefits and should not have them taken away. The decision came on the last day the court could rule on the matter.