South Strikes

UMWA Strike Against Warrior Met Coal Company Continues…

In March, over one thousand coal miners in Alabama belonging to the United Mine
Workers of America began a strike which continues to this day. Their previous contract was
agreed upon after their former employer went bankrupt and was replaced by Warrior Met Coal,
a company which is backed by investment firms in Wall Street that have no relationship to the
workers in Alabama. As a result, while the new management got huge bonuses from bankruptcy
court, the mine workers were subjected to pay cuts, poorer health insurance, and fewer
holidays. They were told that these losses were only temporary and necessary to help the
company get on its feet. However, now that the new company has shown that they intend to
keep these changes to preserve their own profits, the striking workers have been forced to take
action and demand the pay and benefits that rightfully belong to them.

The rejected contract which was presented to the workers is nothing less than an insult
and a demonstration of Warrior Met’s indifference to the standard of living of those who make
their profits possible through their labor. Under this contract, pay rates would be raised only
slightly from their already cut values, and only one of the multiple holidays that had previously
been taken away would be given back. Additionally, the proposed contract was nowhere near
competitive with the working conditions for other companies in the area, despite the fact that
Warrior Met has received millions of dollars in profits since the previous company’s bankruptcy
in 2016. Seeing that management had reneged on their promise to reestablish the working
conditions they once had, the workers decided to fight back, with approximately 95% of the
union membership voting no to the proposed contract. UMWA President Cecil Roberts issued
the strike shortly afterwards when Warrior Met refused any further negotiation.

Since then, UMWA has held over a dozen strike rallies, and the momentum has only
continued to build from there. This is the union’s first strike in over three decades, and many of
the workers have never participated in such a collective action before. These rallies have helped
to build their understanding and agitation about the importance of continuing the fight. In
addition to these rallies, the union flew a group of active mine workers to Wall Street to lead
protests against the three hedge funds which have prevented contract negotiations from moving
forward: BlackRock Fund Advisors, State Street Global Advisors, and Renaissance
Technologies. When the workers went to their offices and picketed in front of their headquarters,
the investors were said to be confused about what the problem was, demonstrating how
removed they were from the real consequences their decisions made in the lives of the miners
and their families. Other unions, including the Teamsters and SEIU, joined in further picketing
activities in a demonstration of solidarity throughout the wider labor movement as a whole. The
UMWA hopes to be able to continue sending members to Wall Street to continue the pressure in
New York as well as in Alabama.

An initial counteroffer from Warrior Met which did not improve significantly on the
originally rejected contract was again shot down by the union. After that, the management of
Warrior Met has refused any sort of constructive communication or negotiation with the striking
workers. Instead, the response of the company and its Wall Street allies has been to hire scabs
to continue work in the mines, sometimes forcing their way in through violence. There havealready been multiple instances of scabs driving cars driving into workers who had formed
picket lines and causing serious injuries. Police who have witnessed these events have
neglected to take appropriate action. Instead, they have arrested protestors who have tried to
shut down the mine during the strike. Despite the continued violence and intimidation against
them, the workers have remained peaceful in their actions.

The strike has been able to continue in the face of these obstacles because of a strong
showing of solidarity among the workers, their community, and other supporters of the labor
movement. Strike funds have allowed the protestors to continue to pay their living expenses
while they fight for the cause, and individuals and local businesses in the community have
contributed to food banks to feed those who are on strike. Additionally, the AFL-CIO has
supported the effort by contributing to outreach on social media and spreading the word through
their communications department. Nevertheless, bills and emergency expenses continue to
come in every day that the strike continues, and the strike fund is still in need of donations to
keep up with these costs. Donations to the strike fund, which go straight into the pockets of the
workers, can be made at https://umwa.org/umwa2021strikefund. These donations are essential
to allow the workers to continue the strike one day longer, day after day, until they get the
contract they deserve.

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