Miners: ‘We have been on strike for 252 days now’

By John Benson
December 27, 2021
Warrior Met Coal strike support rally in Brookwood, Alabama, Dec. 8. Court injunction blocking union from mass picketing at mine entrances is serious attack on whole labor movement.
Militant/Bob BraxtonWarrior Met Coal strike support rally in Brookwood, Alabama, Dec. 8. Court injunction blocking union from mass picketing at mine entrances is serious attack on whole labor movement.

BROOKWOOD, Ala. — “We have been on strike now for 252 days,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts told some 200 miners, family members, retired miners and other supporters at the union’s Dec. 8 solidarity rally at City Park here. Rallies like this have been held almost every week since the strike against Warrior Met Coal by 1,100 UMWA members began April 1.

Striking miners have formed contingents in several area Christmas parades in recent weeks, spreading the word about their battle and getting solidarity and donations from other unions, including a truckload of Christmas toys, UMWA International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer told the crowd. Roberts reported on contributions from other unions that help provide weekly strike benefits to the miners, in addition to the UMWA’s strike fund.

Miners walked out in an effort to force Warrior Met Coal bosses to negotiate seriously with the union, five years after being saddled with a concession contract imposed on them out of the bankruptcy of the former mine owner, Jim Walter Resources. That contract gutted many of the gains in wages and working conditions miners had won.

A handful of Wall Street hedge funds, led by BlackRock, took over and started up Warrior Met. The miners were forced to take a $6-an-hour pay cut and lost most of their overtime pay and paid holidays. Health care went from $12 to see a doctor to a $1,500 family deductible and co-pays up to $250. Health care is vital for coal miners, who face black lung and other debilitating diseases from the conditions in the mines.

“The people who manage the Wall Street hedge funds that own Warrior Met don’t know us, they don’t know our families, they don’t know our communities. And they don’t care,” the UMWA says. “All they care about is sucking as much money as they can, every day that they can, from central Alabama.”

Fight against onerous injunction!

When the miners went on strike, they set up picket lines at the company’s No. 4 and No. 7 mines, the preparation plant, the central shops and railroad crossings.

But, in a serious attack on the strike, the company got Circuit Court Judge James Roberts to issue an order Oct. 27 banning picketing and all union activity within 300 yards of the Brookwood mines. The company charged the union with violence against scabs. The injunction has been extended several times.

On Dec. 6, the court amended its ruling to allow two union members to picket at each entrance, but they still had to be at least 300 yards away, according to Jason Haught, assistant to UMWA President Roberts. And several union members are barred by name from picketing.

This fight is in the interests of all unionists. When our ability to conduct an effective strike is attacked we need to protest.

The miners’ hard-fought battle against Warrior Met is the first contract strike in the Alabama coalfields since the early 1980s. The striking miners are encouraged by other labor battles that union fighters have waged this year at John Deere, Volvo, Nabisco/Mondelez, Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s and other companies.

Solidarity rallies are held each Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Brookwood ball park, at 15689 Highway 216.

Spread the word about the strike! Send donations to UMWA 2021 Strike Fund at P.O. Box 513, Dumfries, VA 22026, or pay electronically on umwa.org website by clicking “here” and selecting “Donate Now.” Send messages of support to District 20, email: umwadistrict20@bellsouth.net.