• Sun. May 22nd, 2022

Warrior Met miners face further attacks as professional company judge extends picket injunction


Warrior Met Coal’s historic strike is approaching its ninth month as miners face increased attacks from state government and courts. In the most recent action, an injunction prohibiting picketing within three hundred feet of company property – first issued on October 27 – is again extended until December 5.

In response, United Mineworkers did nothing other than continue their ineffective protests aimed primarily at deflecting the growing anger of the miners.

Coal miners on strike against Warrior Met in Alabama (Photo: UMWA Facebook)

Meanwhile, coal prices hit an all-time high, allowing Warrior Met to end its third quarter with its highest profits in two years.

When the injunction was renewed on November 15, the United Mineworkers asked the court to allow one minor per location to picket, with further additions if no violence occurred after ten days. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Robert, Jr. rejected the union’s proposal.

Robert wrote in his thirteen-page order that, in view of the alleged violence on the picket line, the court had “a duty to choose between the invaluable prospect of continued violence during the picket” and the “protection of safety. public and civil order. . “

This is not the first time that the courts have sided with Warrior Met; immediately after the strike started, the company sought and obtained an injunction limiting the number of pickets on a driveway to ten.

Warrior Met alleges that the injunctions are necessary to protect its employees from violence and has posted videos to support this claim. In these videos, employees can be seen driving voluntarily through picket lines. In one, they claim that a miner jumped on the hood of a scab truck. It is clear from watching the video that the picketer was only taking desperate measures to avoid being hit. Several minors and their wives were injured. At least one minor has been hospitalized. The court’s concern for the “protection of public safety and civil order” apparently does not extend to the picket lines.

The police have systematically looked away when strike breakers assaulted those who were on the picket line. In a video shared on Facebook by a minor’s wife, a mange deliberately swerves to hit her while standing by the side of the road. An officer standing a few meters away said he saw nothing.

Assault is not the only form of violence that the picket lines have faced. A miner told the World Socialist Website that guns were unloaded at minors, especially those picketing late at night.

The union responded to the growing frustration of miners by stepping up ineffective protest actions. UMWA held a protest in Montgomery, the state capital, on Thursday against the use of state soldiers as escorts for scabs entering and exiting mines.

Larry Spencer, District 20 vice president of UMWA, appealed to Gov. Kay Ivey, saying, “Gov. Ivey has to decide which side she’s on… I’m sure the governor, if she spoke to the business, she might persuade them of more than what they are doing.

It’s laughable, as Ivey has spoken out on the business and profit side several times. His media office immediately and predictably responded that Ivey was supporting the soldiers “protecting the Alabamians on their way to work.”

In addition, UMWA President Cecil Roberts continues to organize protests outside the Manhattan offices of BlackRock, Warrior Met’s largest shareholder.

UMWA knows the nature of Warrior Met leadership and that of its investors. The UMWA website says, “The people who run the Wall Street hedge funds that own Warrior Met don’t know us… and they don’t care. All they care about is sucking up as much money as they can, every day they can ”mines.

These are the same people who the protests are supposed to appeal to. Like Larry Spencer’s helpless appeals to the governor of Alabama, the BlackRock protests are nothing more than a theater designed to mask the union’s role in extending the Warrior Met strike by isolating the miners.

The extended injunctions come amid a resurgence in price and demand for coal, including metallurgical coal mined at Warrior Met. The nation’s largest mining operations, including Peabody Energy and Arch Resources, report that all 2022 production has already been sold. Peabody, in fact, has sold its production for 2023. Average committed coal prices are 20% higher than the current price.

In a meeting with shareholders on November 2, Warrior Met Coal CEO Walter Scheller said third quarter profits were the highest they had seen since the start of the pandemic. Increased demand for steel, as well as “geopolitical tensions” between China and Australia, he says, “have raised prices … to levels we have never seen.”

Despite the strike, Scheller told investors, the days ahead are “not significantly changed.”

Warrior Met chief financial officer Dale Boyles said the company “posted its biggest net profit in over two years” in the third quarter.

Scheller went on to describe how reducing the staff of continuous mining operations to seven or eight miners per shift could reduce operating costs, if necessary, and explained that they were able to direct miners continuously at the mine number four “with experienced people from mine four.”

He told shareholder Luther Lu that most of these “experienced people” had crossed the picket line, which Lu described as an “interesting development”.

This is a company that has had no qualms about operating the mines with a dangerous number of experienced staff. Since its inception, the company has focused on minimizing costs at the expense of miners. He is now saying bluntly, as profits soar in the midst of a strike, that they could cut staff even further. They are well positioned to make record profits as miners risk their lives on the picket lines.

Under these conditions, UMWA refused to extend the strike to other mines or to mobilize wider support. In fact, UMWA signed a new contract in September with Shoal Creek, a thermal coal mine about thirty minutes from Warrior Met, allowing Peabody to reopen the unused mine as the price of coal skyrocketed.

Calling in other mines across the country and delaying negotiations on Shoal Creek would have allowed the miners at Warrior Met to take advantage of the unusually high price of coal in their favor. Instead, Cecil Roberts encouraged minors to make futile appeals to the forces – the state and its courts, law enforcement and BlackRock investors – who profit from their mistreatment.

Across the country, working conditions for minors have deteriorated sharply. Last Monday, Brian Wallen, 49, became the sixth miner to die this year in West Virginia coal mines. In Louisville, Ky., Four officials at a coal company are on trial for ordering workers at two separate mines to assemble dust monitoring equipment so they can bypass safety requirements while remaining “in compliance.” “.

UMWA did not intervene to demand the safety of its workers in these deteriorating conditions. Instead, they continued to collect union dues while giving workers nothing but pathetic and unnecessary acts of protest. Just as UMWA worked hand-in-hand with Warrior Met to force the hated 2016 contract on the miners, it is now preparing the miners for another sold-out contract.

Appeals to the UMWA leadership to change course are in vain; the whole conduct of the strike has shown which side they are on. Cecil Roberts is not invested in securing fair wages and safer working conditions, but in sustaining the profits of the coal companies.

Miners at Warrior Met are part of a growing wave of strikes, with workers standing up and resisting inhumane work environments and abysmal wages. Contrary to what Cecil Roberts might say, the miners at Warrior Met are not alone. However, it would be a fundamental error to delude yourself in the courts or the state, which represent the interests of banks and corporations. Miners also cannot appeal to the non-existent conscience of BlackRock investors.

Warrior Met miners must heed the lesson of workers at Dana, Volvo and John Deere by forming a grassroots committee, independent of UMWA. This committee would discuss and implement measures to break the isolation of the strike by reaching out to other miners, as well as autoworkers, teachers and workers around the world. There is little time to waste. Contact the World Socialist Website for more information.