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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Horizon Natural Resources Miners/Retirees Action Site


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Temporary Relief for Horizon Miners

For Immediate Release
October 7, 2004
Contact: Doug Gibson

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Says
Union Is Planning Actions To Address Termination of Health Care Benefits
for Nearly 5,000 Horizon Natural Resources Retirees and Active Miners

Says UMWA Has Determined That What Happened to Horizon Members Qualifies as a Strike Under Union Constitution. Therefore, the UMWA Will Provide Temporary Health Care Coverage to Horizon Miners and Retirees from the Union’s Selective Strike Fund

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is vowing actions to address the termination of health care benefits and collective bargaining and job rights for nearly 5,000 Horizon Natural Resources coal miners and retirees. He also announced that, under the UMWA’s Constitution, what happened to the Horizon miners and retirees qualifies as a strike. Therefore the UMWA Selective Strike Fund will soon begin providing temporary health care coverage to individuals not covered under the Coal Act.

The UMWA received word from Horizon lawyers on Sept. 23 that the company would officially terminate its union contracts and health care benefits on Sept. 28 to coincide with the sale of its properties. Then on Sept. 28, U.S. District Court Judge Henry R. Wilhoit granted a request by the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds for a stay of the sale, placing a temporary stay on the sale and scheduling a hearing for Oct. 8. Unfortunately, the stay was short lived. Horizon lawyers went to the judge on the day he ruled to cry that a stay would put the company out of business immediately, even though the lawyers had filed no response to the Funds’ request prior to the judge’s ruling. Sadly, the judge entertained Horizon’s request and moved the hearing date from Oct. 8 to Sept. 30. Wilhoit then decided to lift his stay, clearing the way for both the sale of Horizon’s properties and the company’s complete abandonment of its workers.

"The men and women who worked hard to keep Horizon profitable–even though, clearly, the company’s managers did not–are angry. They want to know how the promise of lifetime health care made to them by our government can be taken away," said Roberts. "Across the globe, coal miners--along with our families and friends--have often had to lead the tough fights, and we will do so here. At our rallies, by e-mail and letter, and in person, so many of the people impacted by this bankruptcy court injustice have told me they want to continue to fight. The UMWA intends to do just that. We have taken legal action, rallied, been arrested, lobbied and prayed, but the laws remain the same and more and more working people are suffering because of it. This has to stop, and we hope our actions will force a long overdue national debate about bankruptcy law. We need to look at who benefits from the laws, and who gets burned by the laws. The status quo is not working and must be changed."

Roberts said that UMWA miners at the Cannelton mine near Charleston, W.Va., are extremely upset that new owner, Massey Energy, is acting as though it does not intend to rehire the miners–most of whom have worked there more than 20 years. The miners are also questioning why Massey felt compelled to recently bring armed personnel to the operation.

"This is criminal," said Roberts. "You’re telling an individual who has worked at the Cannelton mine most of his life that he is no longer needed; that he can be easily replaced. And then you fan the flames by trotting out armed guards to intimidate him. I believe Don Blankenship should come face to face with all the displaced miners and tell them honestly why he will not hire them. We know why. It’s because of his love for the almighty dollar, and his disdain for workers’ rights. It is past time for working people to start confronting this bewildering acceptance by some Americans that this is the way it has to be. Is the Cannelton, or Horizon’s Starfire mine in Kentucky, the place to launch a national debate? We will see."

Roberts said the UMWA has decided to furnish all Horizon miners and retirees adversely impacted by the bankruptcy court ruling with temporary health care coverage from the union’s Selective Strike Fund.
"This decision will cost the union millions of dollars, but we are prepared to accept that loss in exchange for providing our Horizon members some cushion while we continue our efforts in the courtroom and in Congress–and now in the streets–to win the fight for their jobs and their health care," said Roberts.
Roberts called on candidates of both parties–at every level–to take action now to address the crisis of bankruptcy law and the nation’s desperate need for a comprehensive health care policy.

"John Kerry and John Edwards have both said that what happened to the Horizon miners is wrong and that they will work with all parties to create fairness in the laws," said Roberts. "We have not heard from the Bush Administration, but we know that it has had four years now to find a long-term solution to the Coal Act’s funding problems. To date, that has not happened. If it had, we could place the Horizon retirees and miners in the 1993 Benefit Fund without breaking the bank, and the government’s promise of lifetime health care could be kept. Instead, our folks are now left wondering what is going to happen to them. It should not be this way, and I guess that is what angers the UMWA the most. Congress and the Administration could have prevented this situation, but they chose not to–except for our friends in Congress, who, like us, share our deep frustration and anger."

Roberts said the UMWA will continue to vigorously pursue its appeal in U.S. District Court of federal bankruptcy Judge William Howard’s ruling that created the dire situation for the Horizon miners and retirees.
"We had a brief period of hope with the stay, but now we must move forward with our appeal," explained Roberts. "We know that it may be a while before the appeal is decided, and while we wait, the UMWA will continue our efforts to keep this story in the news by whatever means necessary."

Roberts also explained that lawyers representing International Coal Group (ICG) subsidiary Lexington Coal recently contacted the UMWA to discuss the future for UMWA miners working at Horizon’s Ziegler No. 11 operation in Illinois and at Horizon’s Kindall operation in Indiana. Both operations will be under the direction of Lexington Coal Company.

"Lexington Coal’s lawyers have notified us that the operator would offer employment to the existing workforce at both Ziegler and Kindall, and that it is willing to sit down and potentially bargain with the UMWA," said Roberts. "Needless to say, we will take them up on their offer."


It is wonderful news the UMWA will be offering the Horizon miners/retirees a six month term of emergency health care coverage...but those who are affected by this must remember its only six months and does not fix the problem we are facing.

After many discussions with Doug Gibson, UMWA Spokesperson, its understood that the passage of HR 3796 is the only way Horizon miners are going to be able to keep their health care.

HR 3796 would provide funding for the beneifit funds for orphaned miners like those of Horizon.

Click Here To Go To the "KEEP THE PROMISE TO THE COAL MINERS" website and sign the online petition to Congress supporting the passage of HR 3796

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Horizon Natural Resources Archives and Links

Always check the official Resist Oppression site for updates and new enteries for the most recent news and commentary.

Resist Oppression Archives about Horizon Natural Resources:

Horizon Natural Resources and Politics: Follow the Money (MOST POPULAR)
9/28/2004 Today, 250 miners lose their jobs & 3,000 employees lose their health care
250 Miners will lose their job this Tuesday (Sept. 27, 2004)
AEI Resources viewing this website
Save the AML funding Petition (Deadline Sept. 30, 2004)
Executive gets raise while company defaults on workers comp
Bush hates coal miners...wake up West Virginia
More Help Is Needed
Police arrest protesting coal miners
Villians of the Working Class (Horizon is listed)
Cheney vistis WV (VP Did Not acknowledge Horizon workers plight------Edwards DID)
Horizon ruling: Bankrupt public policy dooms W.Va., U.S. coal miners
Time for Congress to take Action

Other Links:

Click Here for the Latest Google News Search for Horizon Natural Resources