Another day, and another coal company is trying to rob its workers of their pensions and health plans.
On Monday, Alpha Natural Resources became the most recent coal company to file a petition with a US bankruptcy court.
They’re asking that court to slash retiree benefits and tear up existing union contracts, worth nearly a billion dollars in payments to workers and retirees.
With May 16 set as the date that Alpha’s assets will go to auction, Monday’s filing is nothing less than a threat to the union workers: Let Alpha walk away from the contract, or else.
Seriously, in Monday’s filing the company’s lawyers explained that “If such cost savings cannot be achieved globally, then the debtors [Alpha] may be forced to liquidate their assets, to the detriment of all stakeholders, including all union employees.”
This filing doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the coal industry recently, because this has become the standard endgame in Big Coal’s playbook.
It’s a big part of how the companies guarantee that they can deliver no-risk profits to shareholders and pay off Wall Street lenders, and still manage to pay out millions to their executives in the middle of declaring bankruptcy.
It’s a playbook that the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is familiar with. President Cecil E. Roberts wrote back in August that the Chapter 11 filing “appears to follow the same scripts as others we’ve seen this year: pay off the big banks and other Wall…