The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) plans to appeal a ruling dismissing a lawsuit against Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. The federal court dismissed the lawsuit the union had filed under the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA). The ruling throws cold water on a rally that took place in St. Louis, Mo., USA, where 15 people were arrested in front of Peabody Energy headquarters. 

Just before the rally, Peabody announced that the UMWA had rejected an offer to settle all claims with the UMWA, payable over 15 years, which could have provided 3,100 Patriot Coal retirees with lifetime health care benefits comparable to those of Peabody’s active corporate employees.

Vic Svec, senior vice president of global investor and corporate relations said the offer could have funded the newly established Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association that will provide health care benefits to retirees in the wake of Patriot’s bankruptcy. Patriot was a Peabody spinoff created in 2007; union disputes over benefits have raged since.

“UMWA President Cecil Roberts claims to be concerned about his members,” said Svec. “So why did he not accept a settlement amount large enough to provide 3,100 retirees with lifetime healthcare benefits comparable with those of Peabody’s active corporate employees?”

“The UMWA retirees traveling to St. Louis to rally for healthcare benefits have a right to know a good faith settlement was on the table and that union leadership rejected it,” he added.

Since Patriot’s launch, Peabody has funded Patriot’s health are obligations for some 3,100 retirees under contractual agreement. The mid-August offer was to settle all claims with the UMWA and the union would not accept these terms, according to Peabody, despite the fact that Peabody’s contractual obligation, at any level, has been relieved by new agreements between Patriot Coal and the UMWA.