Miners from the Warrior Met Coal Company outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama have been on strike since April 1st of this year.
The events leading up to their current strike started several years ago. In 2016, the company Walter Energy that owned the mines and was the employer of the miners went bankrupt. After Walter filed for bankruptcy, the company and its assets were purchased by a group of hedge funds that created a new company called Warrior Met Coal. When Warrior Met took over, they threatened the miners, saying they would only recognize their union (United Mine Workers of America) if the workers made “sacrifices” to ensure the financial health of the company. Warrior Met Coal then imposed a contract on the workers with concessions to the company. For example, the contract reduced the miners’ hourly pay by $6, slashed their healthcare benefits, forcing them to pay for many healthcare services out of pocket, and gutted their hard-earned pensions in exchange for higher-risk 401Ks. Upon imposing this contract, the bosses of Warrior Met told the workers that if they made this sacrifice and worked hard, the bosses would “take care of them” in the next contract.
When it came time to bargain a new contract, the Warrior Met management unsurprisingly went back on their word and refused to negotiate a contract on improved terms. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and workers voted to go on strike. Since April 1st, United Mine Workers Local 2235 has been on strike. Warrior Met has used scabs, and there has been instances of violence against the workers on the picket line. On July 8th, a scab hit the wife of a miner on the picket line with his car.
The workers’ union has tried to initiate various tactics to expose the lies of Warrior Met. For example, on June 22nd, a group of miners from the local and some other union supporters travelled to Wall Street to picket outside the offices of BlackRock, State Street Global Advisors, and Renaissance Technologies, three of the biggest hedge fund and investment management firms on Wall Street who each own significant stakes in the company. These are some of the most powerful corporations in the world. President Biden has appointed key former BlackRock employees to advise him on economic policy, while Robert Mercer, the founder of Renaissance Technologies, was the biggest single donor in the 2016 election cycle when Trump was elected.
It is important that the workers have taken aim at the people responsible for their exploitation–the financiers and executives who really run and benefit from this system off the back of workers. Miners create all the value by actually mining the coal, but these Wall Street executives cut obscene profits from that labor, buying themselves power and control. Ultimately, it will take a broad fight from workers across this country and around the world to defeat these Wall Street elites. They have long shown us that they are an obstacle to creating a society that serves us all – a society organized to meet human needs.