United Mine Workers of America

Frankie Steele/Louisville Public Media

 

For the first time in about a century, no union coal miners are working in Kentucky. The state’s few remaining union miners were laid off New Year’s Eve when Patriot Coal’s Highland Mine in Western Kentucky shut down, the United Mine Workers of America confirmed.

“Appalachia was always a really tough nut for the union to crack, and I think maybe Kentucky was the toughest nut of all,” said labor historian James Green, author of a new book about West Virginia’s mine wars.

Peabody Energy Corp. wants a bankruptcy court to confirm that it can terminate its obligation to fund Patriot Coal’s retiree health care benefits.

Peabody is one of the largest private sector coal companies in the world and one of its many spin-offs is Patriot, which operates two mines in Union and Henderson counties.

Patriot Coal has a bankruptcy judge's go-ahead to enter into a new labor agreement with the nation's biggest miners' union, ending a long, acrimonious dispute.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States on Tuesday granted St. Louis-based Patriot's request to put in place the collective bargaining deal ratified Friday by the United Mine Workers of America.

Prospects of a mine workers' strike involving Patriot Coal are intensifying after a bankruptcy judge signed off on the company's push to abandon its labor agreement with the United Mine Workers of America.

Patriot operates two mines in Union and Henderson counties in Kentucky.

The United Mine Workers of America will stage a protest in Henderson Tuesday over Patriot Coal’s move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members.

The UMWA will bring more than 30 busloads of supporters from around the Midwest and Appalachia to the Henderson County Courthouse in western Kentucky. A ruling by a federal bankruptcy judge last week authorized Patriot to make a variety of financial moves during reorganization.