NEW YORK — Several hundred members of the United Mine Workers union rallied and picketed outside the offices of BlackRock here July 28 to support striking miners at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood, Alabama. BlackRock is the largest hedge fund in the world, with $8.67 trillion in assets, and Warrior Met’s largest shareholder.
The Warrior Met miners were joined by busloads of retired miners — many coming from Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia and Alabama — and union members and others from the New York area. They cheered speakers and chanted “No contract, no coal!” and “Warrior Met ain’t got no soul!”
Some 1,100 miners have been on strike since April 1 at Warrior Met’s two underground mines, coal-preparation plant and other facilities.
“The company has enjoyed revenue in excess of $3.4 billion” since Warrior Met was set up, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts told the crowd. “But it does not want to recognize the sacrifices these workers made to allow it to exist in the first place. All those billions came up to New York to fatten the bank accounts of the already rich.”
“Our strike’s about cuts to our wages, our health insurance, getting time and a half for overtime and double time on Sundays,” Darrell Goldsby, 46, a roof bolter in the No. 4 mine, told the Militant. “We’re just trying to get back what we gave up in 2016.” He’s referring to major concessions in wages, benefits and working conditions the union made to BlackRock and other hedge-fund creditors who took over after the previous boss, Jim Walter Resources, went bankrupt.
It’s also about job safety, Goldsby said. “This is a gassy mine. Just before we went on strike we were cutting and hit an area with too much gas and it ignited.” Goldsby said that miners and their union safety committee have shut down production several times until the company fixed unsafe conditions.
“I can’t say it was better when it was Jim Walter,” he said. “But with Warrior Met it’s like we don’t count at all.”
“We’re underpaid,” added Tammie Owens, 44, one of several women workers in the mine. “We’re not asking for anything we don’t deserve.”
“We have bosses telling people to do stuff that is unsafe. I’ve stepped in and told my union brothers, ‘Don’t do that,’” she said. “And the bosses make you come to work, sick. The flu, pneumonia. They don’t care.”
Among the New York unions present were Utility Workers Local 1-2, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, flight attendants, teachers, stage hands, RWDSU retail workers union and Communications Workers of America.