Coal Miners Get the Shaft Again


The union movement in the United States may not have begun in the coal fields, but it arguably became a major force in the American economy, in American politics, and in the national life of the United States because of the stands taken by pro-union miners in coal fields from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies.

Today, in West Virginia, we see the unraveling of the last vestiges of union rights in the coal fields. Over the last few decades, two major coal companies, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have negotiated contracts with their miners that included good pensions and health-care benefits for their retirees. To get out from under those obligations, the companies created a subsidiary, Patriot Coal, to which they sold their deep-mining operations. In effect, they separated out their assets that have been declining in value with the shift away from deep-mining and to surface mining, which…

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