Nicholas Curry's sleeping arrangement has changed a bit over the last couple of days.
Curry, a junior at Washington University, has been camping out in a tent near Brookings Hall. It's part of a "sit-in" to get Washington University to cut ties with Peabody Energy, a large coal company that's headquartered in St. Louis.
"I slept out here with my dog Max," Curry said. "So, we spent the night here last night, and we'll be here tonight."
More than a thousand United Mine Workers of America members were back in St. Louis on Monday, the latest in a series of protests against Peabody Energy and its handling of their retirement and health care benefits.
On Monday, the top official with a national miners' union says bankrupt Patriot Coal's bid to cut retiree health care benefits, while seeking millions of dollars for executive bonuses, is immoral.
Patriot Coal spun off from St. Louis-based Peabody in 2007, taking with it an enormous amount of the larger company’s health care obligations. Now that Patriot has declared bankruptcy, the company is looking to cut health care coverage for retired miners.
At a press conference in St. Louis, United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said Patriot was designed to fail.
St. Louis-based Patriot Coal Corp. has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to modify collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America, allowing the coal company to cut health care coverage for retired miners.
Patriot was created by St. Louis-Based Peabody Energy Corp., as a stand-alone company in 2007. In creating Patriot, Peabody also transferred a hefty chunk of Peabody’s outstanding pension obligations onto Patriot’s books.
Local activist groups say they’re planning several protests this week against Peabody Energy.
This morning activists hung a banner on a Peabody Energy and United Way billboard that read, “Dirty Coal = Dirty Money.”
Later in the day, activists joined student groups to protest at Washington University, saying the school had too cozy of a relationship with Peabody. In a statement, Washington University says it respects students’ right to express their opinions.
Peabody Coal, ArcelorMittal to buy Australian coal giant
According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Australian coal giant Macarthur Coal has agreed to be bought by Peabody Energy and ArcelorMittal for $5.2 billion. St. Louis-based Peabody has pursued Macarthur for more than a year.
The Australian company is the biggest miner of pulverized coal, which is used in making steel and in great demand in Asia.