Striking Miners Decry “Outrageous” Order to Pay Warrior Met Coal $13.3 Million
The union representing hundreds of Tuscaloosa County coal miners who have been on strike since last April said they will vigorously fight an order to pay Warrior Met Coal more than $13 million in damages.
Warrior Met bought the assets of Walter Energy after the latter declared bankruptcy in 2016, and miners say the new ownership did not keep its promises to workers about increasing their salaries after their business stabilized.
The strike began last year when around 1,000 members of the United Mine Workers of America took to the picket line to protest and has dragged on since then -- union members rejected a proposed deal with Warrior Met days after the strike began and negotiations have not been productive since then.
Earlier this year, Warrior Met went to the National Labor Relations Board Region 10 to try to hold the UMWA liable for financial losses incurred because of the strike.
Cecil Roberts, the president of UMWA International, said the union entered into a settlement agreement in June "in order to save striking members and families from days of hostile questioning by company lawyers," but leaders were shocked when, on July 22nd, the NLRB sent the union a list of damages claimed by Warrior met totaling $13.3 million.
Roberts claims the astronomical figure is more than 33 times the amount NLRB attorneys initially indicated they would assess against the union.
“This is a slap in the face not just to the workers who are fighting for better jobs at Warrior Met Coal, but to every worker who stands up to their boss anywhere in America,” Roberts said. “There are charges for security, cameras, capital expenditures, buses for transporting scabs across picket lines, and the cost of lost production."
“What is the purpose of a strike if not to impact the operations of the employer, including production?” Roberts continued in a Wednesday statement. “Is it now the policy of the federal government that unions be required to pay a company’s losses as a consequence of their members exercising their rights as working people? This is outrageous and effectively negates workers’ right to strike. It cannot stand.”
Roberts said the UMWA will "vigorously challenge" the "outrageous assessment" handed down by NLRB Region 10.
“It appears that Warrior Met wants us to reimburse it for those costs, including costs it incurred before the strike even began. What’s extremely troubling here is that the NLRB appears to have taken up the company’s cause without a second thought," Roberts said. “I want to be clear: Warrior Met Coal instigated this strike and has brutally extended it through its sustained unwillingness to reach a fair and reasonable agreement at the bargaining table. We have no intention of paying its costs for doing so. The right to strike in America must be preserved. We will fight this at every level, in every court. We will spend every penny of our resources rather than give in to something like this from the NLRB, Warrior Met or any other entity.”
For more news on the strike as it develops, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.