On April 25th and April 29th the annual shareholder meetings of Arch Coal and Peabody Energy will be held in Campbell County, Wyoming. Rodger Kerson with United Mine Workers of America has said that more than a dozen retired and active mine workers also plan to be in Campbell County during that time. Kerson says the group will protest against pay and benefit cuts. Kerson also says the meetings are being held in Wyoming in an effort to hinder turnout for the protest.
Kim Link, spokeswoman for Arch Coal Inc., said in an email basinsradio.com that it is routine to hold meetings in areas that the company operates and noted the company empathizes with people affected by the market downturn. Both the press release provided by Kerson and the statement from Link are provided below.
United Mine Workers Press Release:
Gillette, Wyoming: A delegation of more than a dozen retired and active mine workers from West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida will travel to Wyoming this week to protest at the annual shareholder meetings of Arch Coal on Thursday April 25th and Peabody Energy on Monday, April 29th.
Who: Active and retired members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and community allies
What: Leafleting and protesting at annual shareholders meeting
When and Where:
Thursday, April 25th –Arch Coal Annual Meeting
6:30 am – leafleting by UMWA members and supporters
8:00 am -- Annual meeting
Wright Hotel, 300 Reata Drive, Wright, Wyoming
Monday, April 29th – Peabody Energy Annual Meeting
2:30 pm – leafleting by UMWA members and supporters
4:00 pm – Annual meeting
Gillette College, 300 Sinclair Street, Gillette Wyoming
Both companies have moved their annual meetings more than 1,000 miles from their respective headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., after repeated protests by thousands of members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and community allies.
More than 2,000 people attended the most recent St. Louis protest, as demonstrators placed 1,000 white crosses in memory of deceased miners and those currently put at risk by Arch Coal and Peabody Energy. Fourteen people were arrested in front of Peabody’s St. Louis headquarters.
“Wyoming is a wonderful destination,”said UMWA President Cecil Roberts, “but these companies didn't travel 1,000 miles from their corporate headquarters to give shareholders a chance to admire the scenery. They want as few people as possible to see what they’re doing to retired miners, families and active workers.”
“Every coal miner knows that to work safely, you need to shine a light on what’s happening around you. We’re going to shine a light on these companies, to protect our members and to keep other workers safe from corporate schemes to abandon retirees and cut pay and benefits for active workers.”
UMWA members and supporters object to actions taken by both Arch Coal and Peabody Energy to offload their obligations to retired miners and surviving spouses to a new company, Patriot Coal, formed in 2007. With 43 percent of Peabody’s retiree obligations, but just 11 percent of its assets – as well as additional Arch Coal obligations acquired from Magnum Coal – Patriot has been described by Temple University professor of finance Bruce Rader as a company “designed to fail.”
Patriot filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis for drastic reductions in health care for retired miners and surviving spouses, as well as severe cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions for active miners.
In a recent interview with the West Virginia State Journal, Patriot CEO Ben Hatfield essentially admitted what UMWA members have been saying for months: His company was established in 2007 with not enough assets to meet its liabilities. At the time, Hatfield was CEO of International Coal Group:
"Frankly, as a competitor, we looked at that and said ‘how could that work?' It looks like a bad balance here – too many liabilities and not enough assets," Hatfield said….”As a competitor we were very suspect from the day the spin was announced as to whether this venture could survive.
"It's one of the areas where I frankly agree with many of things (UMWA President) Cecil Roberts has said. Something doesn't quite smell right here."
Further information about the UMWA effort to stand up for retired miners and family members from Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, and active workers at Patriot Coal is at www.FairnessAtPatriot.org.
Information Provided By Arch Coal Inc Spokeswoman, Kim Link
Our board of directors is holding its April meeting in Wyoming, which coincides with our annual shareholder meeting. It’s routine for our board to hold meetings in areas where we operate; in fact, in recent years our board has held meetings and site visits in Colorado, West Virginia and Wyoming. As you know, Wyoming is home to our Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines. Wyoming is home to nearly 30 percent of our company’s total workforce, and home to a significant number of Arch Coal shareholders as well.
This is a very challenging time for the U.S. coal industry, and we empathize with the many people who have been affected by the market downturn. However, Arch Coal sold the former subsidiary companies in question more than seven years ago to ArcLight Capital Partners. Arch Coal did not spin off subsidiaries to Patriot Coal Corporation, and Arch Coal was never a signatory to a UMWA contract.
The facts remain. On Dec. 31, 2005, Arch Coal completed the sale of three of its Central Appalachian subsidiaries, along with the associated mining operations and reserves, to Magnum Coal Company. The subsidiaries were not “spun-off” by Arch, they were sold in an arms-length transaction to an unrelated party. This sale included two mines with UMWA-representation and two that were not affiliated with a union. At the time of the transaction, Magnum was owned by ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC and was already a sizable Central Appalachian producer with annualized production of more than 10 million tons. Under ArcLight Capital’s ownership, Magnum operated as an independent producer until July 23, 2008, when Patriot Coal Corporation purchased Magnum for a reported $695 million. Arch Coal had no involvement whatsoever in either ArcLight Capital’s decision to sell Magnum to Patriot or in Patriot’s decision to purchase Magnum. The transaction with Magnum was executed in good faith, at a time when coal market conditions were very different than they are today.
Kim Link, spokeswoman
Arch Coal, Inc.