Warrior Met Coal Miners Speak Out: Proposed Contract Change An ‘Insult’
Employees at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood have been on strike for one week. On Wednesday, they were presented with a contract that could end the strike, but some miners say the contract is not good enough.
The deal that was presented on Wednesday does not offer many upgrades. One big problem miners have with this deal is the lack of pay increase.
The old contract listed underground base pay as $22.85; this will increase to $25.85, but $1.50 is subtracted to be added to the worker's 401k. This means that the workers will receive a $1.50 raise. In three years, workers will receive an additional $.50 increase in base pay.
Dwayne Mitchem has worked for the company as an electrician for 25 years. He says he will vote it down "because they are not offering us anything; they are just tweaking the old contract."
Another important issue that did not change is insurance. The workers will continue to receive 80/20 insurance with slight changes being made to the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.
"They offered us two more holidays, a dollar more an hour, pretty much the same crappy insurance they offered us [before]," said Rily Houghlett, who has been a roof bolter for 13 years. "They did offer us [paid] lunches – that's a half-hour more [per] day."
While the original contract did offer eight holidays, employees were only allowed three. The new contract offers ten holidays and also changes the four strike policy to a 6 strike policy.
Jeff Fleenor, who has been a heavy equipment operator for 16 years, says that while it is a good thing that the company offered paid lunches and one day off each week, the proposed contract is "simply not enough of what we gave up [in 2016]."
"[The contract is] horrible and an insult," Fleenor said. "It didn’t address our concerns enough involving getting all of our holidays back, the continued usage of outside contractors which undermine and take union jobs that we previously held under Walter Energy. The insurance didn’t change enough, and not enough into 401k."
Houghlett believes "the majority will not like the deal because of how much we lost" and how they have been treated for the last five years.
"Coal miners do have a little dignity," Houghlett said. "This group from New York only looks at us as a number we only want what so many other coal mines have. [We want] to be treated fair, have all of our holidays off, have Sundays off, have better insurance. We work hard and risk our lives to make them millions and millions of dollars – we deserve to be treated better."
In regards to optional Sundays off, the contract says, "work on the seventh day of an employee's shift is optional." Houghlett says this wording does not guarantee that employees will not work Sunday.
While workers were previously required to give two hours' notice when they called in sick, they must now give one hour's notice.
"If you have car trouble, you get [a strike] same as before," Mitchem said. "[It] was insulting to us that they offered so little."
Houghlett said that the employees want to be off all holidays, get 100% insurance, and have $4 added to their 401k.
"We would like at least $4 in 401k since they took our retirement away," Houghlett said. "We want them to treat us like we are more than a number to them."
Mark Sexton, who has been a motorman for eight years, is also dissatisfied with the contract.
"They could do better," he said.
The proposed tentative contract will be voted on April 9, but it is unlikely that this will end the strike.
"Back to the picket line," Houghlett said.