Striking Alabama Coal Miners Put Their Lives on the Line
Over 1,100 miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama have been on strike for nearly ten weeks demanding better pay and benefits. The workers, who are represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), accepted significant cuts to pay and benefits six years ago to save the mine from bankruptcy. “They told us, ‘We’re in bankruptcy. If y’all can help us out, five years from now we’ll get you back,’” UMWA miner Shane Olmstead said. Despite profits of $288.6 million in 2019, Warrior Met has reneged on its promise and demanded even greater concessions from the miners.
“Nobody in their right mind ever wants to strike,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts said. “But sometimes the company’s actions and disregard for the welfare of workers and their families forces a strike. This is one of those times.”
In addition to risking their financial well-being, the striking workers are putting their lives on the line. UMWA has reported multiple instances of violence targeted at workers on the picket line, including Warrior Met personnel driving their cars into striking miners. Nearly a dozen striking workers were arrested while a group of 300 miners and Roberts blocked a Warrior Met mine to stop scabs from getting in. And without the regular unionized workforce operating the facilities, Warrior Met mines are leaking pollution into nearby creeks, leaving the water black and thick with wastewater runoff.
Violence, surveillance, and harassment on the picket line is not deterring the striking workers. They rejected a tentative offer from Warrior Met that included a raise of just $1.50 an hour over five years, opting to continue their strike. “If somebody saved your life, it would seem like to me you would be indebted to them. And us as union workers, we saved Warrior Met,” said UMWA miner Moses. “So it would seem like, to me, that it should be a no-brainer.”
As another worker put it, “We want the world to know that we want a fair and just contract. And we got to do whatever we got to do to make that happen.”