Former Massey Energy CEO Indicted

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For those of you who have been following the Massey Energy story, the Mine Workers (UMWA) passed along this news yesterday:

United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that a federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Donald L. Blankenship, former Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy Company, with four criminal offenses. The indictment charges Blankenship with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and securities fraud. The indictment alleges that from about Jan. 1, 2008, through about April 9, 2010, Blankenship conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. The indictment alleges that during this same period of time, Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.

The indictment further alleges that after a major, fatal explosion occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, Blankenship made and caused to be made false statements and representations to the SEC concerning Massey Energy’s safety practices prior to the explosion. Additionally, the indictment alleges that, after this explosion, Blankenship made and caused to be made materially false statements and representations, as well as materially misleading omissions, in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey Energy stock.

The FBI and the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General are in charge of the investigation. United States Attorney Booth Goodwin, Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Gabriele Wohl are handling the prosecution.The four counts charged carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years’ imprisonment.

Click here to view a copy of the indictment. An indictment is only an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Massey Energy Upper Big Branch (W. Va.) deadly blast killed 29 in 2010. Families of the victims reacted to the indictment yesterday.

Photo by D.D. Meighen on Flickr. Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Holt Baker, Roberts Among 30 Arrested at Patriot Rally in West Virginia

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker and United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts were among 30 arrested at a rally in West Virginia Tuesday while protesting Patriot Coal’s attempts to abandon its commitments to retirees, most of whom worked for Peabody Energy and Arch Coal before those companies created Patriot. Roberts and others say Patriot specifically was created to fail so the original companies could eliminate retiree health care and pension costs.

Before the arrests, Roberts headlined a group of speakers with a rousing message:

We’re standing for those afflicted with black lung. We’re standing with those who are in hospice care taking their last breath with their priests and ministers and families all around them. We’re standing with those who have cancer. We’re standing with the afflicted because the Bible tells us, ‘Honor your mother and your father.’ [...]

Holt Baker underlined the AFL-CIO’s support for miners in the Patriot fight. Of the steady rain that came down throughout the rally, she said: “That is just the tears of the righteous trying to wash away the injustice of Patriot Coal.”

Both of the state’s U.S. senators sent letters of support for the rally and the retired workers. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) said:

Today’s rally should remind us all of people like Shirley Inman, who left a good-paying job in Chicago for a mining job at home in West Virginia, with the promise of a lifetime pension and health care benefits. Now, after years of on-the-job injuries and a courageous fight with cancer, that promise is gone. This is an unconscionable outcome for Shirley and the thousands of miners and their families who gave of themselves to the mining industry for decades on end. It’s heartbreaking and shameful, and I won’t stand for it.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D) added:

Our miners worked their fingers to the bone every single day to provide the fuel that powers America, and these companies made a promise to them—a promise they earned and deserved.

Watch video of today’s rally at the Mine Workers’ UStream channel.

Last week, hundreds of Australian workers rallied on behalf of their U.S. brothers and sisters. The West Virginia legislature also got involved in the story, with the House of Delegates passing a resolution supporting the retirees and calling on Patriot to honor its commitments. Roberts said he was pleased with the legislature’s action. “It shows that the support for our struggle for justice is growing and broadening, and that these coal companies’ concept of ‘business as usual’ will not be tolerated in West Virginia.”

A concurrent resolution was introduced in the Senate, but didn’t emerge from committee before the legislature adjourned.

For more details on the specifics of the Patriot story, Roberts wrote an op-ed explaining the situation and Fairness at Patriot produced the following video:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Patriot Coal Abandons Negotiations with Miners and Retirees

On Tuesday, negotiators from Patriot Coal walked out of talks with the Mine Workers (UMWA), leaving thousands of retirees in danger of losing their health care. The company also canceled talks scheduled through next week, UMWA reports via press release. UMWA President Cecil Roberts reported that the company and the union were only about $30 million to $35 million apart. Meanwhile, hundreds of high-paid executives at the company will be receiving about $25 million in bonuses.

Roberts said:

We are very disappointed by this action. We had made significant progress toward reaching an agreement that provided a workable alternative to the severe terms Patriot asked for last spring and that were approved by the bankruptcy court in St. Louis. The union had agreed to more than $400 million in savings for the company over the life of the current contract, which gives them the money they say they need to survive. But that still wasn’t enough for them.

UMWA said the company is moving ahead with the implementation of terms and conditions approved by a judge, which means that Patriot will cut off the current health care system for more than 23,000 retirees, their dependents and surviving spouses. The old system will be replaced with a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association that only has guaranteed funding of $15 million, plus a royalty payment of 20 cents per ton of coal produced, which is projected to raise another $5 million a year. UMWA also will be given 35% ownership in Patriot Coal, which they can sell after the value of the company—that’s in bankruptcy—is established. Current retiree health care costs are about $5 million a month.

Patriot also will be able to deny all retiree health care benefits to 40% of currently active workers who have already worked enough years to earn those benefits.  The company also can reduce pay, benefits and paid time off for active workers.

Roberts said UMWA will not give up the fight to make sure Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the companies that the UMWA argues set Patriot up specifically to fail to dump employee health care costs, take responsibility:

We are not letting them off the hook. We are airing a new round of television spots that feature the voices of the victims of their scheme. Thousands of us will be back in front of Peabody’s offices next week, and more events are planned in St. Louis and throughout the coalfields in the coming months. No matter what the events of the next few weeks may bring, this struggle is a long, long way from being over.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Photo by United Mine Workers of America on Facebook

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