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UMWA Pres Cecil Roberts declares the Mine Workers fight is a faith-based, civil rights-based and labor-based struggle.

UMWA Pres Cecil Roberts declares the Mine Workers fight is a faith-based, civil rights-based and labor-based struggle.

MTD Sec-Treas Daniel Duncan, in handcuffs, is led to a waiting police vehicle following the sit-down protest in St. Louis.

MTD Sec-Treas Daniel Duncan, in handcuffs, is led to a waiting police vehicle following the sit-down protest in St. Louis.

MTD Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan was one of 15 people arrested September 24 during a peaceful march and rally outside the Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis as MTD-affiliated United Mine Workers of America protested the company’s continued refusal to pay for health care benefits promised to retired miners, their widows and dependents.

Also arrested during a sit-down protest in the street directly in front of the Peabody tower were UMWA President Cecil Roberts and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists President Terrence Melvin.

The sit-down took place immediately after a march by several thousand union members and their allies that blocked several streets in downtown St. Louis. Union members from more than 15 international unions, including many MTD affiliates as well as Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council, took part in the march and rally.

Roberts told those gathered that the fight for health care for retired miners in not just a labor fight, it is “a faith-based struggle, a civil rights-based struggle,” with the potential to “turn America around.”

Duncan told the Mine Workers that the MTD stands solidly with them, adding, “We will be there until the last day.”

Among the other union officers addressing the gathering were Melvin, Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Mike Louis, CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings and AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council Director James Gilbert.

Last year, Patriot Coal – which had been spun off by Peabody in 2007 with nearly $600 million in obligations for health care owed to employees, retirees and their families – declared bankruptcy. (Patriot purchased Magnum Coal in 2008, after it had been spun from Arch Coal. Magnum absorbed $400 million in Arch’s health care obligations.) In May, a federal bankruptcy judge declared Patriot had the authority to reject its collective bargaining agreement and modify its covenant regarding retiree health care. The decision could affect as many as 22,000 Mine Workers, retirees, dependents and widows. The union continues to work with Patriot to obtain what is fair and deserved for its members.

Delegates to the MTD Quadrennial Convention in early September unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the department’s support for the UMWA during this struggle as well as to work to change the nation’s bankruptcy laws to better protect workers and their benefits.