On Monday, the National Consumers League joined two legendary labor leaders – Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America, and Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America – at a rally and protest outside Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis. We made history by rallying with 6,000+ members of the UMWA, CWA, UNITE HERE, SEIU, and Jobs for Justice and then marched to the federal courthouse several blocks away, where a group of us were arrested for “impeding traffic” by sitting down in the street. Why were we there? Because the Patriot Coal company, which was created by Peabody Energy, is filing for bankruptcy, which will leave 22,500 coal miners and their families without health care and retirement benefits. Peabody Energy continues to rake in massive profits despite Patriot Coal filing for bankruptcy.
At this rally were some true legends: Van Jones, an environmental advocate and former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the White House, spoke about environmentalists needing to care about workers facing dire loss of health care and retirement income as much as spotted owls or crickets. The NAACP’s director in Missouri, Adolthus Pruitt, read aloud sections of the Peabody annual report detailing the burgeoning profits the company was earning year after year. And of course, the two distinguished labor leaders, Roberts and Cohen.
If ever there was a just cause, this is it: ensuring that 22,500 miners who, for decades, performed dangerous labor hundreds of feet below ground, and who bargained for health care and retirement benefits for their families and gave up wages and other benefits in the process, get the benefits and income they are due. The National Consumers League proudly stands with these workers and their families, and that is why I and Van Jones and Larry Cohen and so many others spoke out, marched, and got arrested in St. Louis.