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9/29/2005

More Americans then ever before missing credit card payments

Source: Workers Independent News

As Congress debates whether or not to protect Hurricane Katrina victims from bankruptcy reform laws that take effect October 17th, a record number of Americans hit by high gas prices are missing their credit card payments. The American Bankers Association reports that past due payments for April-to-June rose to 4.81 percent the highest level since the organization began monitoring the information in 1973. The organization says that in addition to higher gas prices, personal savings rate, typically a cushion for jumps in energy prices, have dropped to a record low of 0.6 percent.

United Mine Workers of America "Proud to Endorse" Sen. Robert C. Byrd for Reelection

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts today announced that the union has endorsed Senator Robert C. Byrd (D- W. Va.) for reelection in 2006.

"We are proud to endorse Senator Byrd for reelection," said Roberts. "There is no better friend in Congress of working and retired coal miners and their families than Senator Byrd. He has stood with us time and time again in our hours of need, and we're going to stand with him.

"He's a leader in the fight for continued funding for the Coal Act, making sure the federal government lives up to its promise of health care for retired miners and their widows. Because of his efforts, hundreds of millions of dollars are returned to West Virginia coalfield communities each year, supporting local economies throughout our state.

"Senator Byrd has worked to enact and strengthen coal mine health and safety legislation, helping to transform coal mines from dangerous, dusty places where life and limb were at constant risk into workplaces where workers can have a reasonable expectation of returning home from work safely every day," Roberts said.

"But Senator Byrd doesn't just stand up for coal miners and our families, he stands up for every working family in West Virginia and always has in his years as a United States Senator," Roberts said. "His is a voice of strength and courage in the Senate, one working families cannot afford to lose at this critical time in our nation's history. He is on our side, and we're on his."

The UMWA endorsement of Senator Byrd was recommended by the West Virginia Coal Miners Political Action Committee (COMPAC) Council earlier in September. The UMWA National COMPAC Council voted unanimously to endorse Byrd on September 22.

Click here to listen to a moving speech Sen. Byrd made May 17, 1999 at the Save the Coal Act rally in Washington, D.C.


9/28/2005

Wal-Mart movie releases two trailers

Brave New Films has just released two movie trailers to advertise their upcoming film, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" .

Click on the links below to watch the movie trailers
1.
The Gospel According to Sam Walton: Ever since their friends started working for Wal-Mart, Bob and Wendy haven't seen them much. Features James Cromwell and Frances Fisher.

2. Betty's Diet Plan: Betty's job at Wal-Mart has done wonders for her physique.



9/23/2005

AFL-CIO Calls for 'New Direction'

Source: AFL-CIO

Hurricane Katrina has illustrated the failed priorities of national leadership, according to top union officials who called today for a “new direction” for our country.

America not only must rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast region but also must redefine national priorities to focus on better jobs, stronger communities and a just economy, the 10-member AFL-CIO Executive Committee said in announcing a dramatic “America Needs a New Direction” initiative.

“The inability of our federal leaders to deal with this continuing tragedy is a failure of huge proportions. What happened on the Gulf Coast broke our hearts, but it also opened our eyes and confronted us with graphic evidence that our leaders have broken faith with the American Dream,”
said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who, along with AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, recently visited the storm-damaged areas.

The New Direction initiative includes immediate steps to address Katrina’s damage—including restoring wage protections for construction workers in the region, which President George W. Bush revoked, and demanding accountability in all reconstruction contracts—as well as longer term nationwide efforts. (MORE >>>)

9/21/2005

Wal-Mart Accused of Denying Lunch Breaks

Source: AP

Lawyers representing about 116,000 former and current Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) employees in California told a jury Monday that the world's largest retailer systematically and illegally denied workers lunch breaks.

The suit in Alameda County Superior Court is among about 40 cases nationwide alleging workplace violations against Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. Wal-Mart, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million that contains similar allegations to California's class action. The company also is accused of paying men more than women in a federal lawsuit pending in San Francisco federal court.

The workers in the class-action suit are owed more than $66 million plus interest, attorney Fred Furth told the 12 jurors and four alternates.

"I will prove the reason they did this was for the God Almighty dollar," Furth said in his opening statement. (MORE >>>)

9/19/2005

Two Change-to-Win unions battle over Edison workers

Source: NJ.COM

At the national level, the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers are allies.

The SEIU and the UFCW are part of the Change-to-Win coalition that broke from the AFL-CIO this summer.

But in Edison, locals of the two unions are on opposite sides of a battle involving one of the state's largest developers and managers of office buildings. (MORE>>>)

All of this comes on the heels of SEIU last Friday releasing an internal memo (Source: Working Life) announcing it had reached a "no raiding" agreement with the AFL-CIO affiliated American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

STATEMENT BY MICHAEL MOORE ON THE CBC LOCKOUT

Source: Michael Moore.Com

Oscar-winning filmmaker and best-selling author Michael Moore issued the following statement today on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's decision to air "Bowling for Columbine" while in the midst of a lockout:

"CBC has locked out its union workers, an action that is abhorrent to all who believe in the rights of people to collectively bargain. Why the great and honorable CBC is behaving like an American corporation is beyond me.

The CBC is planning to show my film, "Bowling for Columbine," this Sunday evening. I do not want my film being broadcast on the network unless it is willing to let its own workers back in to work and promises to bargain with them in good faith. That is the historical tradition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and I expect no less than for them to continue this tradition of respecting its workers and their union."

9/15/2005

Bush Buddies Get No-Bid Contracts While Workers Get the Shaft

Source: AFL-CIO

Some of the first large-scale Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery contracts awarded by the Bush administration were awarded on a no-bid basis to corporations with strong ties to the administration and the Republican Party, according to news stories in The Wall Street Journal and other media. At the same time, the administration is using the catastrophe to push a reactionary anti-worker agenda, gutting federal regulations that protect worker safety and ensure quality work and living wages.

The no-bid deals include $100 million contracts to the Fluor Corp., a major donor to the GOP, and the Shaw Group, which is client of Joe M. Allbaugh, President George W. Bush’s campaign manager in 2000 and the former director the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Meanwhile Halliburton Co., subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root Services received a $29.8 million clean-up contract, while Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, is doing repair work at three Navy facilities in Mississippi under an existing contract. The company also has been awarded billions of dollars of federal contracts for work in Iraq and that work and the Bush administration’s Iraq procurement policies have been heavily criticized in recent years.


The Bush administration also is using the disaster to attack federal standards ensuring quality work and worker safety. Last week, the administration announced it was eliminating the high-quality work standards set by the federal Davis-Bacon law for hurricane reconstruction contracts work, allowing contractors to pay substandard wages to construction workers in the affected areas, and the administration also is lifting many affirmative action rules for reconstruction contracts.

Bush now wants to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week, according to
The Washington Post.

The administration also has suspended regulations limiting the number of hours truckers can drive when transporting fuel. In addition, Bush has weakened restrictions giving contracting preferences to small and minority-owned businesses and has suspended the Jones Act, which requires transport of petroleum, gasoline and other petroleum products on U.S.-flagged ships while operating in U.S. coastal waters.

The no-bid contracts “guarantee profits regardless of how much those companies spend or waste,” says
AFT President Edward J. McElroy. “This is happening at the same time that the local hires of these firms will, in many cases, not earn a living wage. It is unconscionable that our national government would act to hurt those most in need while delivering a windfall to wealthy contractors. These decisions must be reversed.”

House Democratic leaders have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the hurricane reconstruction deals.


In a letter to the GAO, Democrats wrote: “The history of this administration’s handling of federal contracts is one of persistent and costly mismanagement. Oversight of federal contracts has been turned over to private companies with blatant conflicts of interest. In Iraq, billions have been appropriated for the reconstruction effort, yet oil and electricity production remain below prewar levels.…The contracting strategy adopted by the administration suppressed competition on thousands of reconstruction projects, while favored companies like Halliburton received special treatment and lucrative monopoly contracts.”

During a tour of hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, the Rev. Jesse Jackson slammed the no-bid deals.

“We still got families that don’t know if people are dead or missing. While the disconnected and the needy are running from shelter to shelter, the connected and greedy are getting FEMA contracts.…It’s almost like white-collar looting,” he said.

UMWA Funds Receive $200 million for Prescription Drug Demonstration Program

Source: UMWA

Federal demonstration program funding helps keep retiree health care benefits intact

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts announced today that the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds will receive over $200 million in federal funds to extend a Prescription Drug Demonstration Program for UMWA retirees and widows. The funding will extend the demonstration program through the end of September, 2007.

"The Demonstration Program is a critical component of the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds' continuing effort to provide the best possible benefits to UMWA retirees and widows," said Roberts. "There are over 55,000 beneficiaries across America who are covered by the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds and who will be helped tremendously by the extension of this demonstration.

"This extension means that the Combined Benefit Fund will have the cash it needs to keep benefits on an even keel for the next two years," Roberts said. "It will also mean that the 1993 Benefit Plan will be able to maintain current levels of benefits through the middle of next year.

"We are very thankful to those in Congress and the Administration who helped get this extension through," Roberts said. "They have taken another step in living up to the federal government's promise of health care to miners and their families, and we appreciate that very much.

"I also want to thank the members of the UMWA Pensioner Leadership Committee and all the rank-and-file members and retirees who contacted their members of Congress and the Administration, urging them to live up to the government's promise. It once again demonstrates that when we speak with one strong voice, the politicians listen."

Roberts pointed out that there is more to do in this fight. "Though this action is very welcome, it is not the complete solution to funding for retired miners' and widows' health care that is needed," he said. "It's a stop-gap measure that buys Congress more time to reach a permanent solution that fulfills America's promise to its coal miners."

Health care fund for retired miners bailed out

A financially troubled program that provides prescription drug benefits to 55-thousand retired coal miners and miners' widows has received a $200 million-dollar federal bailout.The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to offer benefits to mining families in Virginia and other coal-producing states through an extension of a Medicare drug program.

Under the agreement, the Department of Health and Human Services will increase its Medicare reimbursement to the United Mine Workers Association Health and Retirement Funds by an additional $100 million dollars in each of the next two years. The funds were created by the 1992 Coal Act.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd said the announcement provides relief to thousands of miners but it is only a short-term solution to a looming financial crisis confronting the union's health care funds.

9/14/2005

Unite Here Leaves AFL-CIO Over Dispute

Source: Washington Post

Unite Here, a union of 450,000 workers in the apparel and hospitality industry, is leaving the AFL-CIO to join a group of dissident unions that want the organized labor movement to spend more time and money recruiting new members.

Unite Here is joining the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Carpenters in forming a dissident labor federation that has been calling itself the Change To Win Coalition. The Laborers International Union of North America and the United Farm Workers are also part of the new federation, but have not left the AFL-CIO. (MORE >>>)

Bush waives affirmative action for federal contracts for hurricane relief

Source: Political Affairs.Net

The day after Bush signed the executive order that allows contractors awarded federal money to help rebuild the Hurricane Katrina devastated Gulf Coast to pay substandard wages to construction workers, the U.S. Department of Labor waived most federal affirmative action laws for contractors. The affirmative action waiver applies to companies that do not have existing government contacts and are awarded federal relief work contracts. The waiver is for three months but could be extended. (MORE >>>)

9/13/2005

AFT president's statement on Bush's decision to allow no-bid contracts for Katrina

Source: AFT

The newspapers and airwaves have been filled with discussion about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Some issues are surely beyond the control of government at any level. But two recent actions the Bush administration is directly responsible for—suspension of the Davis Bacon Act in the Gulf Coast, and the awarding to friends of large-scale rebuilding contracts without a bidding process—are a national disgrace and the wrong response.

The president’s suspension of Davis Bacon Act protections in areas affected by Katrina means that workers on federally funded projects will be paid less than they were before the storm. The prevailing wages on the Gulf Coast are already among the lowest in the country—under $10 per hour in most job categories. For the president to drive down wages further at a time when so many are in need is both exploitative and cruel.

At the same time that the president chose to undercut working people who live in the disaster areas, he awarded his friends at firms such as Halliburton, Bechtel Group and Fluor Corp. with billions in noncompetitive, cost-plus contracts. These agreements guarantee profits regardless of how much those companies spend or waste. This is happening at the same time that the local hires of these firms will, in many cases, not earn a living wage.

It is unconscionable that our national government would act to hurt those most in need while delivering a windfall to wealthy contractors. These decisions must be reversed.

9/09/2005

Update: President agrees to suspend prevailing wage for Katrina workers

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

I hereby report that I have exercised my statutory authority under section 6 of the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 276a-5, to suspend the provisions of sections 276a to 276a-5 of the Davis-Bacon Act in the event of a national emergency. I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a "national emergency" within the meaning of section 6. I have, therefore, suspended the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act in designated areas in the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This action is more fully set out in the enclosed proclamation that I have issued today.

GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE
September 8, 2005

9/08/2005

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price movie set to premiere Nov. 13

WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight goliath. From a family business owner in the Midwest to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents bring the intensely personal stories of an assault on families and American values.

Watch the Trailer in: Quicktime High / LowWindows Media Player...or download in MPEG4

Members of Congress wanting to deny Katrina clean up workers a prevaling wage

The Working Life blog has posted an informative piece about Congress wanting to take away a chance for workers to make a decent living, particularly in the reconstruction efforts that will be fed by tens of billions of our tax dollars.

34 Republicans sent a letter to President Bush yesterday asking that he use emergency powers to suspend Davis-Bacon, which requires that workers on federally-financed projects be paid the prevailing wage.

Go to Working Life and read the posting.

9/06/2005

Economic Report: Four Year Increase in US Poverty

The images coming out of the gulf coast last week brought to the surface an invisible demographic in the United States: those living in poverty.Just days before the hurricane struck the US Census Bureau released their annual report showing that, for the fourth year in a row, poverty in the US incresed. What it means is that 37 million people are living on an income of 19000 dollars or less for a family of four, an increase of 1.1 million since 2003.

United Mine Workers of America Kicks off "Blankenship Truth" Campaign

Source: UMWA

Declaring that "the people of West Virginia need to know the truth about who Don Blankenship is and what he represents," United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts today announced the beginning of a campaign that takes on the various misleading and self-serving ad campaigns sponsored by Blankenship and his company, Massey Energy.

The initial kick-off of the campaign begins today with a print ad placed in eight newspapers throughout the state, likening Blankenship to another famous Donald–New York's Donald Trump, often called "The Donald." Over time, the campaign will consist of occasional print ads, radio and TV spots, public events and more.

"We're not going to try to match The Donald dollar for dollar," Roberts said. "But we'll definitely be a strong voice for working families in the debate over the future of West Virginia."

Roberts noted that Blankenship has the highest pay of any CEO in the state of West Virginia, "and isn't shy about spending it. That's his right, but it doesn't make what he says right. He's had some success in driving the debate about issues in West Virginia, but when you look past the slick ads and misleading rhetoric, more often than not the solutions he advocates are the wrong ones for working families."

Roberts also said that a suit filed by Blankenship and Massey Energy against the UMWA and Roberts–which was dismissed last week by a Virginia judge–has not and will not intimidate the union or Roberts into silence. "Some may lay low and shut up in the face of The Donald's bullying tactics, but that just plays into his hands." he said. "If you let bullies get away with intimidation, it just makes them bolder. The UMWA and this union leader have never and will never give in to people who want to silence us."

The UMWA's print ads (attached to this release) are running in the Charleston Gazette, the Charleston Daily Mail, the Beckley Register-Herald, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, the Morgantown Dominion-Post, the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram and weekly papers in Putnam and Cabell counties.

UMWA - Blankenship Ad PDF


Massey and Blankenship lose more decisions in Virginia court as Judge throws out "fishing expedition"

Fairfax County, Va. Judge Jane Marum Roush today ruled against Massey Energy and its CEO, Don Blankenship, thwarting their attempts to shore up their suit against the Charleston Gazette and the West Virginia Citizens for Justice.

"Don Blankenship and Massey Energy have now lost three out of three rounds in their attempt to silence the voices of West Virginians," said United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil E. Roberts. "Their case against me and the UMWA was dismissed last week.

Today they lost two more rounds, as their efforts to engage in a fishing expedition to drag the West Virginia Citizens for Justice (WVCJ) and the Charleston Gazette into a court they don't belong in were rebuffed."

Blankenship and Massey filed a defamation suit against the UMWA, Roberts, WVCJ and its head, West Virginia AFL-CIO President Ken Purdue, and the Gazette in Fairfax County, Va., in June. The UMWA's international headquarters are located in Fairfax County, but none of the other defendants are. WVCJ and the Gazette argued that any case against them should not have been filed in a Virginia court, since they had no ties to Virginia. Blankenship and Massey wanted to engage in discovery to see if there were any Virginia ties. Judge Roush denied their motion to do so.

"It's becoming more and more clear that this case never should have been filed," Roberts said.

"Blankenship and Massey filed this case in a blatant effort to shut us all up and send a chill over the First Amendment rights of every West Virginian who may have a different view from Blankenship's. I can't speak for anyone else, but this union and this union leader have every intention of continuing to speak out on issues important to our members and working families in West Virginia."

United Mine Workers of America donates $10,000 for Katrina relief

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Source: UMWA

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) today sent a check for $5,000 to the American Red Cross and another $5,000 to a relief fund established by the AFL-CIO in support of efforts to rescue, feed and shelter victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"We believe that an injury to one is an injury to all," said International President Cecil E. Roberts, "whether it's in the workplace or in the world where we live. In the face of the unimaginable suffering and loss working families throughout the Gulf Coast are going through, none of us should stand on the sidelines."

Hundreds of thousands in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have been rendered homeless by the Category 4 storm that made landfall August 29, and millions more lack electricity, running water and other basic necessities. The UMWA donation will be used to provide essential supplies and services in the most severely affected areas.

"The destruction and chaos throughout the Gulf region have prompted many to refer to the region as a war zone," Roberts said. "And as in times of war, all of us are called upon to stand united with our fellow Americans. The federal government's response to this disaster has been shockingly slow and uncoordinated, adding to the misery in that region. We call on the federal government to step up efforts complementing the struggle by non-governmental organizations to get relief aid delivered as quickly as possible."

9/05/2005

AFL-CIO: Roberts’ ‘Troubling’ Record Demands Extensive Questioning of Chief Justice Nominee

Source: AFL-CIO

Judge John Roberts, President George Bush’s nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court, must undergo “vigorous and extensive” questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee to ascertain his views on fundamental rights, according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

In a Sept. 2 letter to committee Chair Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Sweeney called for a “deliberate, methodical and complete inquiry” into Roberts' thinking on workers' rights and civil rights.

Sweeney based “grave concerns” about Roberts' judicial philosophy and commitment to equal rights, in part, on his urging the Reagan administration to oppose strengthening the Voting Rights Act and Fair Housing Act, criticism of a Supreme Court ruling that public education cannot be eliminated for children of undocumented immigrants, defense of a narrow Supreme Court decision denying the right to recover unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act and his opinion that equal protection under law should not be enforced if it costs a defendant significantly. Sweeney also cited “troubling” views on state-sponsored gender discrimination.

Bush’s nomination of the conservative Roberts to become an associate justice, replacing moderate Sandra Day O'Connor, raised widespread concern—concern that has been amplified since Bush announced he will push for Roberts to be named chief justice following the death Sept. 4 of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Read AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's letter to Sens. Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy.

9/02/2005

Kentucky Quebecor Workers Vote Yes!

Source: Teamsters

On September 1, pressmen, assistants, roll tenders, stackers and pre-press workers in Versailles, Kentucky overwhelmingly voted to join the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters (GCC/IBT) by nearly a 3-1 margin. There are 244 workers in the bargaining unit.

The Versailles vote marks the second Teamster victory under the neutrality agreement on union organizing between Quebecor World and the GCC/IBT in May of this year. Quebecor workers in Fernley, Nevada voted to unionize this past July.

The victory came after a two-and-a-half year struggle for justice at the plant.

“I’m so glad we finally have our union,” said Rich Woods, a veteran pressman at the plant.

“Being Teamsters means dignity and respect on the job for all of us. And to my fellow Quebecor workers across the country, all I can say is 'Come join us.'"

Support from the local religious and political community, as well as the local labor movement, was integral to the Quebecor workers’ victory. In a community rally shortly before the election, 70 people from eight different local unions came out to support the Quebecor workers despite strong winds and rain left over from Hurricane Katrina.

Missing! Five million workers are missing, and almost nobody has noticed

Source: People's World Weekly

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that July’s unemployment rate was only 5 percent, President Bush interrupted his five-week vacation to take credit for a strong economy. But a report released earlier this summer strikes a jarring note.

Katherine Bradbury, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, took a closer look at the numbers. Her conclusion: there may be as many as 5.1 million additional workers who are unemployed but are not counted. When they are added to the 7.5 million officially unemployed, the unemployment rate rises to 8 percent. (Part-timers are not discussed in her analysis, but if we add those who want full-time work, unemployment reaches 11 percent.)

The BLS has always understated the real unemployment rate. But Bradbury’s research indicates that there are far more missing workers today than after recessions in the past. (MORE >>>)

Statement by President Sweeney on AFL-CIO Support for Boeing Machinists Strike

Source: AFL-CIO

The unions of the AFL-CIO are in full support of the strike at Boeing by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. These 18,000 men and women are in a very real sense fighting a fight for all working families.

At a time when nearly 46 million Americans are without health insurance, Boeing tried to use scare tactics to shift nearly $1,000 per year in health care costs to every employee. And the company wants to jump on to national trends by eliminating health care for future retirees, outsourcing more mechanics’ jobs and shortchanging them on pension benefits.

It is outrageous that this profitable company refuses to meet the most basic needs of its workers, while awarding millions of dollars in unrestricted stock to its executives.

Help Working Families Devastated by Hurricane Katrina


Source: Union Community Fund

Working families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama desperately need your help. Please contribute as generously as you possibly can to the special Hurricane Relief Fund of the
AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund, labor's charity for working families and communities in distress. We are working with the labor federations in the affected states and with relief organizations to target help to our working brothers and sisters who need it most. UCF is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity. Donations to UCF are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

Please don't wait—the needs are urgent.

CLICK HERE TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE AFL-CIO UNION COMMUNITY FUND


OR MAIL YOUR CHECK TO:
Union Community Fund Hurricane Relief Fund
P.O. Box 27306
Washington, D.C. 20038-7306.

9/01/2005

One Year Anniversary of the Horizon Natural Resources Bankruptcy

August 31 marked the one-year anniversary of the Horizon Natural Resources bankruptcy an event that changed myself and nearly 5,000 United Mine Workers of America members and their families forever.

Federal judge William S. Howard ruled to terminate the health care benefits for some 5,000 active and retired miners, many of which suffered from black lung and other disabilities as result for their years of service in the coal industry.

The UMWA stood behind the Horizon miners providing health care for those who qualified and eventually was able to place 2,500 of the affected miners on the 1993 UMWA Benefits Fund. Although the fund has been described as being in “ precarious financial position”, the union was able to sway the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA) to provide enough funding for the fund to provide benefits at current levels through the end of this year.


This unyielding dedication to its rank & file should be applauded and used as a moral benchmark that all unions should use when faced with problems (and injustices) regarding retirees’ benefits.

Although the fight to reform bankruptcy laws seems to almost be over thanks to the Bush Administration’s changes to the bankruptcy codes, let us not forget what happened a year ago and lets continue to fight like hell to make sure it never happens again.



Photos of the Horizon Protest Rallies in Lexington, KY
The Lexington 17
UMWA President Cecil Roberts protest of Massey Energy's refusal hire laid off Horizon miners