By William Thornton
September 4, 2022 - The United Mine Workers of America said Friday that Warrior Met Coal is making a “serious miscalculation” by saying it will not allow 40 striking union members to return to work.
The company, in response, said that the employees in question have participated in “acts or threats of violence” related to the ongoing 16-month strike, believed to be the longest in Alabama history.
According to the UMWA, Warrior Met Coal notified the union on Monday by letter that 40 union members will not be allowed to return to work “for unspecified reasons.”
The union is asking for specifics on the company’s position, and has filed an unfair labor practice charge. UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said in a statement that “Warrior Met has been threatening to do this for months.”
“It is demanding that the UMWA cede its legal responsibility to fairly represent those members and is attempting to prevent us from doing so,” Roberts said. “I would note that the list includes the majority of leaders in every UMWA local union that is on strike. It also includes a disproportionate number of African-American members.”
In response, Warrior Met Coal said the miners named in the letter are ones the company “does not intend to reinstate due to their acts or threats of violence, destruction of property, repeated violations of court orders or injunctions, or similar acts.”
“Despite their assertions to the contrary, the UMWA is well aware through numerous legal filings, that these individuals have engaged in serious misconduct, including criminal acts, outside of the lawful right to strike,” the company said in a statement.
Last summer, both the union and the company made charges and countercharges of picket line violence and intimidation tactics. In October, a Tuscaloosa County circuit judge issued a restraining order against picket line activity by the union.
Warrior Met said it values all of its employees and a “diverse and inclusive workforce.”
“The UMWA continues to flood the media with incorrect information and false narratives for public reaction, rather than negotiating in good faith,” the company’s statement reads. “Warrior Met Coal has worked tirelessly over the last 17 months to negotiate in good faith and find a resolution that is beneficial to all parties. Unfortunately, the UMWA continues to address issues in the media rather than at the bargaining table.”
The UMWA strike against Warrior Met Coal began April 1, 2021. About 1,100 union members walked off the job that day and rejected a tentative agreement later that month. Earlier this year, union representatives said about 900 workers remain on strike.
Back in June, the union voted at its constitution convention to commit “all necessary resources” toward the winning the strike, while last month the UMWA blasted an “assessment of damages” tied to the strike totaling $13.3 million.
The strike began once the previous agreement with the union, which was negotiated as Warrior Met emerged from the bankruptcy proceedings of the former Walter Energy, expired last year. Union members say they made numerous concessions in pay, benefits, holidays, overtime and in other areas back in 2016 to keep the company going and get it out of bankruptcy, but those concessions have not been reflected in subsequent offers.
Roberts said Warrior Met has “callously prolonged this strike for months, needlessly punishing these strikers, their families and the Alabama communities where they live.”
“Warrior Met now wants to wipe out the union’s local leadership and attack our union’s diversity,” he said.