United Mine Workers of America | St. Louis Public Radio

United Mine Workers of America

Members of the United Mine Workers of America protest in Washington, D.C. in September of 2016.
Flickr | AFGE

Retired coal workers are no longer at risk of losing their union health insurance as the latest federal spending bill funded coverage that is no longer being paid for by bankrupt coal companies.

But the deal left another issue untouched: the looming insolvency of the union’s pension fund, which could run out of money as early as 2025.

St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 10 with results of Senate vote — With an hour to spare before a government shutdown, the U.S. Senate approved a stopgap spending bill late Friday that allows coal workers in southern Illinois to keep their health coverage until April.

Coverage for about 16,000 employees of now-bankrupt coal companies was set to run out at the end of the year. Coal state Democrats held up a vote on the bill because they wanted a longer benefits extension.

Charles and Doris Lehman, of Sparta, Illinois,  at the Pour House bar in Marissa, Illinois. (Nov. 1, 2916)
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of former coal workers and dependents who worked for now-bankrupt coal companies could lose their health insurance at the end of the year if Congress does not pass legislation to fund it.

Retirees in southern Illinois say losing their health insurance would amount to a broken promise from the coal companies that would have devastating effects to their well-being. Without Congressional action, Republican president-elect Donald Trump’s promise to repeal of the Affordable Care Act makes the retirees’ coverage alternatives uncertain.

A view of the outside of the Peabody Energy building in St. Louis.
St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 11:30 a.m., Jan. 5 with details of new agreement - A health fund for retired miners will stay solvent for at least 10 more months.

Peabody Energy and the United Mine Workers of America have reached an agreement. The company will pay $75 million into the health fund this year, but will not have to pay $70 million next year.

UMWA protest
(Kristi Luther/St. Louis Public Radio)

Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 protection Tuesday, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy.

Patriot, which was spun off from Peabody Energy in 2007, was headquartered in St. Louis until earlier this year. The company is now based in Scott Depot, West Virginia, and filed bankruptcy in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia.

President and CEO Bob Bennett said “challenging market conditions” in coal led the company’s board and management team to make the decision. The company is in negotiations to sell its operating assets to a strategic partner.

(via Arch Coal)

A fight over retiree health benefits landed in front of Arch Coal’s Creve Coeur headquarters Tuesday morning.

The United Mine Workers of America union argues Arch and Peabody Energy both bear responsibility for 10,000 miners’ health benefits jeopardized in another company’s bankruptcy.

St. Louis-based Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody in 2007 and then bought a former Arch subsidiary in 2008.

The UMWA has filed suit against both Peabody and Arch in West Virginia claiming they purposely shed liabilities such as retirees’ health benefits.

Sean Sandefur/ St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of retired and current union miners from across the country descended on St. Louis on Tuesday to protest Peabody Energy and the potential loss of their pension plans.

Most of the miners worked for either Peabody Energy or Arch Coal, but their benefits are threatened by the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal last year. Patriot was spun off from Peabody in 2007, along with the healthcare obligations of many Peabody and Arch Coal employees.

(Adam Allington/St. Louis Public Radio)

Police are warning motorists of traffic congestion and diversions Monday as the United Mine Workers of America protests Patriot Coal's bankruptcy reorganization plan in West Virginia.

Some 5,000 participants are expected to begin arriving at the Civic Center in Charleston around 9 a.m. The UMWA says people from southern West Virginia will drive in, and 50 buses are carrying people from seven states.

Participants will rally at 11:30 a.m. at Laidley Tower, where Patriot's West Virginia offices are located.