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Coal Miners Rallying in Henderson, Want Full Pay and Benefits Restored

A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.

Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.

"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.

"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."

A federal bankruptcy judge has week ruled that Patriot could move ahead with its plans to cut wages and health care for workers and retirees. Rep. Yonts told WKU Public Radio that he hopes the federal government's pension guarantee corporation will help pay for some of the pension obligations promised to retirees, though he says there's no guarantee that will happen. 

The United Mine Workers of America has accused Peabody Energy Corporation and Arch Coal of dumping off the wages and benefits packages of thousands of employees and their families into what become known as Patriot Coal, knowing that the company would go bankrupt.

Peabody and Arch deny those charges.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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