BROOKWOOD, Ala. — Striking miners at Warrior Met Coal and their family members and supporters gathered at a rally of 400 outside United Mine Workers of America Local 2397’s union hall here June 29, marking 15 months on strike.
In 2016 Warrior Met Coal took over Jim Walter Resources, which had declared bankruptcy the year before. Threatening to shut the mines down if the union didn’t accept concessions, bosses pushed through a $6-an-hour pay cut along with slashes in health care coverage, overtime pay, and other work conditions. The company told miners that it would reverse those cuts when Warrior Met returned to profitability.
Going into 2021, it was raking in its best-ever profits. When the bosses refused to honor their earlier promise to restore wages and benefits, union members voted to reject the company’s contract proposal by 95%. They have been on strike ever since.
Warrior Met has been able to get production up to as much as two-thirds of what it was before the strike, using strikebreakers and mine bosses. It has not answered repeated requests by the Militant for comment.
“We are just asking for what we had before,” striking miner Ken Harrington told the Militant at the rally. “The company wants to keep the scabs and give them seniority. That’s not going to happen.”
“I don’t understand someone crossing the picket line,” striking miner Reginald Spencer told the paper. “I have a supportive wife. She is with me every step of the way in this. She went and got a second job. Sometimes I wonder about working for a company that treats people like this. But I’m going to stay the course, and I’m going to go back after the strike is settled.”
Coal bosses have given the United Mine Workers of America “a list of people they want to discharge and say we can’t represent them. That isn’t going to happen,” UMWA International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer told the gathering.
Warrior Met has repeatedly violence-baited union members since the strike began in April 2021 and told UMWA officials it plans to fire 37 miners for alleged picket line violations. In October the company convinced a local court to grant an injunction against picketing within 300 yards of entrances to the company’s two mines, a coal preparation plant and other facilities.
The court has since relaxed the restrictions, but now limits the number of pickets to eight per authorized location. And strikers are barred from attempting to slow the entry of strikebreakers into the mine.
The miners are winning solidarity, including $2.5 million donated to the strike fund from other unions and individuals. The UMWA reports that it has spent $21 million out of the union’s funds as well. Striking miners were each given checks for $2,000 following the rally, on top of their weekly strike benefits.
UMWA auxiliary members and participants in an American Federation of Teachers contingent distributed hot dogs and chips to everyone.
Join the mineworkers’ next strike-support rally here in Brookwood, Wednesday, July 13!
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 UMWA District 20 at 21922 Hwy. 216, McCalla, AL 35111. Email: email@example.com.