ATLANTA — Some 1,100 union coal miners at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood, Alabama, voted overwhelmingly April 9 to reject a tentative contract proposal and continue their strike. The United Mine Workers of America members struck Warrior Met Coal April 1, after their previous five-year contract expired. The new proposal was announced April 5, and miners held union meetings two days later to discuss the offer.
They found out the proposal consisted of a $1.50 raise over the next five years and little else.
Warrior Met Coal was formed in 2016 out of the bankruptcy of Jim Walter Resources in Tuscaloosa County. The “new” mine owners, hedge fund bosses and others owed money by Jim Walters got help from the capitalist bankruptcy court to take over and reorganize the company. They demanded major givebacks on wages and working conditions.
The bosses insisted these sacrifices were necessary to keep the company afloat and preserve miners’ jobs as well as benefits for retirees. Wage cuts, loss of sick days and holidays, higher costs for health care, moves to shortcut safety to speed up production and other concessions were forced on the union.
Jeff Fleenor, who has worked at Warrior Met and its predecessor for 16 years, told the Tuscaloosa Thread that the contract they voted down April 9 was an “insult.”
One of the major issues is the bosses’ efforts to use greater numbers of nonunion contract workers. Fleenor said he is standing up for future miners who get hired at Warrior Met.
“I understand the concerns of some people being out of work for a while [during the bankruptcy], however I didn’t come back to roll over on this contract,” he said. “I specifically came back for this day to ensure we got a fair contract and that I wasn’t the generation that let all the sacrifices that people in the UMWA fought for 90 to 100 years ago fade into obscurity. Our sacrifices pale in comparison to those at the start of the labor movement and the early years of the UMWA.”
“I owe it to miners of days gone by, my family and myself to fight for what we deserve,” he said.
“This strike is helping educate the young miners on what the union is all about,” veteran miner Steve Mote told the Militant before the vote.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts says negotiations with the company are ongoing.
Roberts announced April 12 that the union will begin organizing “Unity Rallies” in the Brookwood area for members, families and community supporters to build solidarity.
Messages of support and solidarity should be sent to UMWA District 20, 21922 Hwy. 216 (Miners Memorial Parkway), McCalla, AL 35111. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone (205) 477-7500. Fax: (205) 477-0004.