“This is an opportunity to send another message to Warrior Met,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said in a video posted for union members, urging workers to come to the weekly strike support meeting at the union hall in Brookwood, Alabama, June 29. Some 1,100 coal miners have been on strike against the company for over 15 months.
Roberts noted that union members voted down the company’s contract offer by a margin of 95% when they went on strike April 1, 2021. Miners rejected the contract because the mine owners refused to honor their promise to restore steep concessions in wages, benefits and work conditions that the union agreed to in 2016 when Warrior Met Coal took over operations from Jim Walter Resources, which had declared bankruptcy the year before.
“The rallies are so important to show solidarity and support for the strike and what we’re fighting for,” said Charles Foster, a young miner who had been working at the company’s No. 4 mine for two years when the strike started. “We need to keep showing the company that we’re not going to roll over for them.”
The company’s mines are known for being prone to high levels of methane gas. In 2001, 13 miners were killed in two gas explosions at the Jim Walter No. 5 mine in Brookwood.
In its May quarterly report, Warrior Met boasts that “the hard work we undertook over the past few years is paying off, as we continued our strong upward trajectory to deliver our third straight quarter of strong profitability.” Company directors have handed out stock dividends worth more than $28 million so far this year to shareholders.
The company’s increased profits come from the rise in the price of metallurgical coal — used in steel production — due to supply chain backlogs and, in part, to the war in Ukraine and U.S. sanctions on Russia. Despite hiring scabs and using mine bosses to keep digging coal in the Brookwood mines, production is just two-thirds of what it was before the start of the strike, the company admits.
Warrior Met continues to look for strikebreakers in an attempt to ramp up production, and as part of its plan to open a new mine along the Blue Creek coal seam. On June 24 UMWA miners picketed outside a Warrior Met job fair in Pennington Gap, Virginia.
Meanwhile, the company continues to violence-bait the union. A court injunction that for several months prohibited all picketing within 300 yards of mine entrances has been lifted. But in violation of the miners’ constitutional rights, the court has limited the union to a maximum of eight pickets per mine entrance. The judge said “we can’t patrol except in the designated locations,” UMWA Communications Director Erin Bates told the Militant. “We can’t walk across the roads leading to and from the mine sites.”
The strikers have won considerable solidarity from the labor movement and other workers, Roberts said. More is needed!
Join the mineworkers’ weekly strike support rallies in Brookwood. Send checks made out to UMWA 2021 Strike Fund to UMWA Strike Fund, P.O. Box 513, Dumfries, VA 22026. Send messages of support to District 20, 21922 Hwy. 216, McCalla, AL 35111. Email email@example.com.
Susan LaMont in Atlanta contributed to this article.