1,100 Mineworkers Strike in Alabama
Working 80 hours a week, including holidays, and they are paid less than other miners in the state
1,100 mineworkers in Alabama have gone on strike after the company failed to agree to a fair contract with the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA).
The strike is taking place at Warrior Met mines in Brookwood, Alabama, and includes workers who work at the No. 4, 5, and 7 mines, as well as at a preparation plant and central shop. They are members of Locals 2245, 2397, 2368, and 2427. According to the union, during the last contract, the workers made sacrifices to allow the company, then known as Walter Energy, to make it through bankruptcy. Those cuts allowed the company to become profitable again.
Instead of using that profitability to make the union workers whole and restore the cuts from the last contract, the company used that money to reward upper management with bonuses of up to $35,000. These bonuses were paid out in recent weeks just as negotiations were heating up. The union says that workers at the mine are making less money than other coal miners in the state and their benefits aren’t as good as other miners in Alabama, let alone other parts of the country.
“Instead of rewarding the sacrifices and work of the miners, Warrior Met is seeking even further sacrifices from them, while demonstrating perhaps some of the worst labor-management relations we’ve seen in this industry since the days of the company town and company store,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the company related to their conduct during negotiations.
One of the 1,100 workers on strike, spoke to the media from the picket line where he said that the CEO makes $700,000 a year in base pay and millions in bonuses, while the workers can’t afford to see a doctor. He said that to make enough money for his family, he averages about 155 to 170 hours every two weeks, or about 80 hours a week. He said everyone at the mine works 6 days a week, including holidays, and says that he has missed most of his four-year-old daughters’ life due to the hours he has to put in at the mine. “All we are demanding is what everybody else is getting, a share, a piece of the pie.”
Warrior Met Coal is Alabama’s largest producer of metallurgical coal, a key component in steel production, and its coal is sent to Europe, South America, and Asia. The mine has traditionally been one of the largest employers in Western Alabama.