By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The United Mine Workers of America is prepared to keep rallying for a cause it strongly believes in.
On Monday, more than 6,000 people — both young and old — came together in downtown St. Louis, Mo., to continue fighting for the health care and pension benefits of active and retired coal miners and their families. The protest took place as the bankruptcy hearings began for Patriot Coal Corp.
“We had a tremendous rally,” said Phil Smith, director of communications for the UMW. “It was truly a sight.”
The crowd marched six blocks from the headquarters of Peabody Energy, which created Patriot Coal, to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as part of the UMW’s “Fairness at Patriot” campaign, which focuses on the health care, wages and working conditions of coal miners. Sixteen individuals were arrested after blocking the street in front of the courthouse.
The group consisted of UMW International President Cecil Roberts, Communications Workers of America International President Larry Cohen, National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg, Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones, the Rev. David Gerth of St. Louis, and rank-and-file miners or retired miners.
Mike Caputo, District 31 international vice president of the UMW, said two UMW Local 1570 members from Marion County were among those arrested — Jack Frazier, a retiree from Patriot’s Federal No. 2 mine near Fairview, and Roger Merriman, who currently works at the mine.
He said the group was arrested in an act of civil disobedience and without incident in order to bring attention to the injustice. To date, about 60 people have been arrested for this cause. The UMW provides legal counsel and takes care of any fines that are imposed.