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1/12/2005

UMWA Questions Frequency of Recent Visits by State Police to Local Union Hall

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Questions Frequency of Recent Visits by West Virginia State Police to Local Union Hall

Calls on Superintendent of State Police to Provide Answer

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts is questioning why West Virginia state police troopers have come twice in the past two days to L.U. 8843's local union hall, allegedly to investigate "why there are so many cars and trucks parked outside the hall."

"The UMWA is holding training this week for our displaced Cannelton miners, and for some reason, the West Virginia state police have been dispatched twice to the local hall in the past two days to see what is going on," said Roberts. "Don’t we still live in an America where freedom of assembly is a basic right?"

In August 2004, a federal bankruptcy judge terminated the L.U. 8843 members’ contract and health care benefits so Horizon Natural Resources would be able to sell its Cannelton mine in Smithers, W.Va., and several of its other properties nationwide. The Cannelton mine was purchased out of bankruptcy by Massey Energy. L.U. 8843 members have erected picket shacks outside the mine and its prep plant to highlight the injustice of the bankruptcy judge’s ruling to the general public.

Roberts continued, "This group of workers has been harshly displaced, stripped of their promised health care benefits, denied employment at a place many of them have given their lives to, and now they are being–in my opinion–harassed by the state police. And not only at the local hall, but also at our picket shacks. The UMWA would like some answers from the superintendent about what is going on here. These workers are going through a very tough time right now, and these frequent visits by the state troopers do not help matters any."

Roberts said the UMWA appreciates the fine work the West Virginia state police–and all public safety workers–do, but their job is to protect citizens and enforce the law, not investigate why parking lots are full for meetings.

"I have not heard any reports of the state police investigating why the American Legion or VFW parking lots might be full on a meeting night, so how is Local 8843's meeting hall any different?" Roberts asked. "The fault here, however, does not lie with the troopers, but rather with the superintendent, or whoever is dispatching the troopers to the hall."

Roberts said the UMWA is continuing to provide health care benefits to all of the Horizon miners and that the union is still pursuing its appeal of the bankruptcy judge’s decision to the U.S. District Court in Ashland, Ky. He said the union also continues to wait to see how many of the displaced, experienced Cannelton miners Massey Energy is going to hire back. To date, only seven of the displaced miners have been hired back to work at the mine.

"I honestly do not know what is taking Massey so long to get back to our Cannelton miners," said Roberts. "Massey is publicly complaining about a shortage of experienced miners, but a large majority of these very experienced miners have submitted applications for employment, yet most have not heard a word from Massey. The UMWA continues to believe that Massey’s reluctance to hire these experienced miners can only be because of one of two things. Either Massey will not hire them because of their UMWA background or because of their age. Both of these reasons are illegal, and the UMWA intends to make that an issue, if need be."

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