Some 1,000 Alabama miners have been on strike for most of this year. The miners work for Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood. Their goal is to get the company to reinstate the benefits, wages and work schedules they had under the previous owner of the mine, Walter Energy.
That company declared bankruptcy in 2016. Warrior Met was founded the prior year to purchase Walter Energy’s assets, including the mine.
The bankruptcy judge ruled that Warrior Met didn’t have to honor Walter Energy’s commitments to its workers. The contract negotiated by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and accepted by the workers was understood to be a temporary sacrifice to help the company. However, workers are still living with those concessions.
How minors’ health and safety are being compromised
Pay is a serious issue, of course, but some of those concessions directly affect miners’ health and safety. For example, their health insurance now provides only 80% coverage instead of 100%, and out-of-pocket costs can be extremely high. In an occupation where workers can suffer serious injuries and illnesses, this can have a drastic impact on the finances of miners and their families.
The scheduling practices of the company have been described as “inhumane” – not to mention dangerous. One woman said that her husband “could be scheduled seven, ten, twenty days straight” on 16-hour shifts. Schedules like this can lead to serious and possibly deadly accidents.
No miner should ever have to foot any part of the bill for a work-related injury or illness, nor should they or their family suffer financially if their condition prevents them from working. That’s why workers’ compensation exists. It’s crucial to know your rights so that you get the compensation to which you’re entitled.