Arch Coal's bankruptcy and Peabody Energy’s looming bankruptcy expected later this year means that the tides are not turning. They have already turned. Mayor Slay, will you continue to lend your office to this sinking industry? Commitment to a Just Transition strategy for St. Louis is necessary and long overdue.
In 2012 when Patriot Coal went bankrupt (as it was designed to), miners’ pensions and healthcare were cut. With the help of United Mine Workers of America they fought back in court, through an aggressive PR campaign and with direct action at Peabody Plaza here in St. Louis and with MORE in Wyoming. Their settlement has only restored a fraction of the company’s obligation to their workers.
Because none of Arch’s mine workers are unionized, sadly, they will most likely not be represented in bankruptcy court. This means their healthcare and pensions are at risk of being dropped. This could leave miners in the hospital wondering how they will pay, while the CEOs and hedge funds cash their checks.
The boom and bust cycle of coal is on its last bust, and we need to account for the wreckage that will be left behind -- the mine workers left in the dust without pensions and healthcare, the extraction zones in need of true reclamation, and the local economies, including St. Louis's. We need a Just Transition that accounts for the responsibilities that corporations like Arch Coal and Peabody Energy run away from during bankruptcies.
"St. Louis coal corporations regularly disregard the health, homes and livelihoods of average people and continue to build their empires by profiting from this oppression. The violent apathy of Mayor Slay and other elected officials to the very real struggles for survival in the face of coal is embarrassing and shameful. St. Louis has the opportunity to be a leader in Just Transition strategies; it is deeply troubling that they do not see this as imperative," said St. Louis resident Basmin Nadra.
This unfettered corporate capitalism is not the Just Transition away from coal that we are calling for!
Instead, green job training for city residents, financial responsibility from extraction companies for site reclamation, community led investment in North St. Louis, utilities that do not prey on low-income residents... this is our Just Transition towards a solidarity economy that works for St. Louis.
Mayor Slay, St. Louis needs a Just Transition!
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(Full press release about Arch's Bankruptcy here.)