UMWA fights for miners amid Westmoreland bankruptcy

Westmoreland Coal Company, the owner of the Kemmerer Mine, is facing objections from the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union as the coal company appears in bankruptcy court in Houston, Texas. 

In a= Nov. 6 objection, UMWA acknowledges that federal bankruptcy rules allow the court to “extend the time within which proofs of claim or interest may be filed.”

On Oct. 28, Westmoreland  proposed to allow creditors until Dec. 12 to file proofs of claim. UMWA’s objection asked for the date to be extended until Jan. 11, 2019, but the bankruptcy court eventually approved Westmoreland’s original deadline. 

UMWA said that rushing the claims process would not give Westmoreland enough information about their responsibilites to the workers they employ.

At stake are benefits and wages for current Westmoreland Kemmerer employees and pensions for retired Westmoreland miners.

A call to the UMWA District 22 office had not been returned at press time.

“Just as we have in every bankruptcy that has hit our industry, we will fight for our active and retired members through every step of this bankruptcy,” UMWA International President Cecil Roberts said in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “If Westmoreland thinks it can steamroll the UMWA it had better think again.”

UMWA district representatives were in Kemmerer in April to negotiate contracts with Westmoreland. They were able to extend the contract between Westmoreland and the union, but the unions says that bankruptcy proceedings are stalling further negotiation.    

On Nov. 15, the group of lenders supporting the company’s restructuring requested all documents concerning Westmoreland’s finances and  obligations from Jan. 2014 through the bankruptcy petition date (Oct. 9, 2018).