FAIRMONT — Coal miners, other union workers, friends, family and supporters from several states descended on the campus of Fairmont State University for a United Mine Workers rally Tuesday morning.
The mass rally, the latest in a series of protests against actions by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, drew approximately 5,000 supporters and resulted in the arrest of 30 people, according to UMWA spokesman Phil Smith.
“This was a tremendous rally, especially given the rain,” Smith said. “I can’t say enough about how dedicated these people are to winning this fight.”
The workers union has alleged that Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy last year, was “designed to fail” as a way to prevent covering owed benefits for retired miners of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.
Several public officials spoke at the event, including AFL-CIO Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and UMWA President Cecil Roberts.
Roberts described pension and healthcare benefits as a moral obligation to miners and said that the miners’ fight was far from over.
“If you don’t have something that you would die for, you don’t have a life worth living,” he said, before leading 30 protesters in an act of civil disobedience on the road near the Fairmont State University practice field.
Among those arrested included Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, a local union official, and Tina Caputo, president of Marion County Democratic Women.
David Bienkoski, a retired miner from Rivesville, attended the rally.
“This is a pathway for all these other companies to do the same thing and believe me, they will,” he said. “We gave up wages for the healthcare that we had. It's sacred to us because of that.”
“Losing this battle is not an option.”
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