CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to preserve benefits for bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp.'s active and retired miners.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin on Friday sided with Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.
The United Mine Workers of America filed the lawsuit last year, saying the companies set up spinoff companies to rid themselves of their benefits obligations. The lawsuit argued they were still responsible for those benefits under the federal Employee Retirement and Income Securities Act.
But Goodwin ruled the law doesn't protect a pension fund's financial stability.
UMW President Cecil Roberts tells The Charleston Gazette the union plans to appeal.
Peabody spun off Patriot in 2007, and Patriot later acquired mines that Arch spun off into Magnum Coal. Patriot declared bankruptcy last year.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Members of the United Mine Workers of America have voted to ratify a settlement with bankrupt Patriot Coal.
The union said Friday night that current or laid-off Patriot workers in West Virginia and Kentucky voted 85 percent to 15 percent in favor of the agreement reached late last week.
Some 1,800 members from 13 locals were voting.
St. Louis-based Patriot says it wants the company to survive, and union President Cecil Roberts says a deal may let that happen.
The settlement would restore most wage cuts that Patriot had sought as part of its reorganization.
Roberts says the deal also reduces the restoration of some benefits and the continuation of others.
Pension benefits for thousands of current retirees would be maintained, and active employees would continue earning pension credit.
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.
St Louis based Peabody Energy is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Wyoming to highlight the importance of the coal-rich Powder River Basin.
A delegation of more than a dozen retired and active mine workers from West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida are protesting.
One group critical of the company, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, claims the company is trying to avoid hearing concerns in its hometown.
Meantime, thousands of protesting mine workers returned to St. Louis today as hearings begin in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on demands by Peabody's Patriot Coal Company. Miners accuse Peabody of eliminating health care for retired miners and for making cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions for current miners.
In a statement, Peabody Energy says "The union continues to grandstand when it knows that this matter will be decided in the courts. Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year. Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so. This is a matter between the union and Patriot Coal, and will be decided in the bankruptcy court."