Mine workers protest shareholders meeting - KOTA Territory News

Mine workers protest shareholders meeting

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About 20 retired miners came from far and wide.

"I'm from West Virginia.  We got people here from Kentucky.  We had one guy come in from Florida," said Rick Ryan, who retired after 35 years as a mine worker.

The United Mine Workers Association brought them to protest at the Peabody Energy annual shareholders meeting in Gillette.

Union reps say St. Louis-based Peabody transferred millions in health care liabilities to former subsidiary, Patriot Coal, and Patriot filed for bankruptcy last year.

"They're wanting to do away with all retiree health care for anybody that worked for Peabody.  We have retirees that never worked a day for Patriot," said Ryan.

"Patriot is a company that's been independent for more than five years.  Then on the basis of how it was managed and also market forces that were beyond its control it made the choice last year to declare bankruptcy.  That was all outside of Peabody's control," said Peabody spokesman Vic Svec.

The miners disagree.

"I can't afford on a pension to go out and buy healthcare that I was promised for 35 years of working.  We worked for less on the hour because we had the promise of our health care," said Ryan.

"I fulfilled my promise to them and I want them to keep their promise to me," said Joe Brown, who retired after 33 years as a mine worker.

Retirees planned on handing flyers to shareholders as they entered the meeting, but they were told by police that was only allowed in a designated area several yards away from the entrance.

But that won't deter the union.

"They can run but they can't hide.  Wherever they go we'll be there," said Brown.

After the meeting three protestors were arrested, according to a press release from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, an advocacy group for low-income communities.  Two activists were arrested for holding up banner in the parking lot that said "Peabody abandons miners" and the other was arrested for dropping a banner saying, "Peabody attacks: pensions, diné lands, climate."

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