The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Alabama Coal Miners in a Tough Fight

Sep 13, 2021

On April 1, 1,100 coal miners at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood, Alabama went on strike. They wanted to get back the huge concessions they were forced to give up after the previous owner of their mine went bankrupt back in 2015. In 2016, in return for keeping their jobs, they agreed to take a pay cut of $6 an hour—from $28 down to an average of $22 an hour. They lost many of their paid holidays, some of their time off and their ability to earn overtime pay. Their health insurance costs went way up, while their safety and working conditions went way down. They also accepted a severe policy that allowed for termination after only four unscheduled absences.

These huge concessions were to last for five years, at which time the workers were supposed to be offered a better deal. But this year, shortly after the workers struck, Warrior Met Coal offered them only a $1.50 an hour raises over five years … and nothing else.

It’s not like Warrior Met Coal can’t afford to give these workers everything they gave up. The company is quite profitable now, producing anthracite coal used in steelmaking for export.

The problem for the strikers is that despite the determined, now months-long fight these miners have been making, they are up against a monster—or actually several monsters. Because the four biggest stakeholders in Warrior Met Coal are all giant holding companies. BlackRock Fund Advisors is the largest with a 13.37% stake alone. Yet even this big stake in Warrior makes up only a tiny fraction of BlackRock’s entire portfolio of $9.5 trillion in assets under its management.

So, the fight of the Warrior coal miners needs to become a fight of many other workers in order for it to put much pressure on the bosses to settle it to the workers’ satisfaction.

The Warrior workers deserve the support of workers all over the country. And it would absolutely make sense for that fight to broaden. We all have something to fight for, and we’re all fighting the same class enemy!