The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

NLRB Attacks Miners’ Union

Aug 15, 2022

A regional office for the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the Warrior Met Coal company, saying that the United Mine Workers Association must pay 13.3 million dollars for costs the company has incurred during the union’s strike against the Alabama company.

Some 1,100 miners went on strike against the company 16 months ago. After the company’s previous owner declared bankruptcy, the company cut the miners’ pay by $6 an hour, increased their health care costs from a $12 co-pay to a $1,500 deductible, took away overtime pay for Sundays and holidays, reduced paid holidays from 13 to three, and turned the costs of workers’ retiree health care over to a Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, among other cuts.

The company has continued to mine coal using strikebreakers throughout the strike. It says it won’t accept a settlement of the strike with the union unless the union agrees to the firing of 37 workers for their activity in the strike, which the union refuses. In October 2021, the company got a local circuit court judge to issue an injunction telling the union to stop all picketing and other activity within 300 yards of Warrior Met Coal, although it was allowed to resume restricted picketing in February. Local, county and state police have acted as escorts for strikebreakers, but have taken no action against company management and strikebreakers who have intentionally struck picketing miners.

The company asked the NLRB to force the union to pay costs the company has incurred because of activities carried out by the striking miners blocking access to the mines, threatening the company’s security guards, and vandalizing the property of the company and its strikebreakers.

In June, the union agreed to accept a settlement requiring it to pay some of the company’s costs, saying it did so to protect workers against questioning by the company. According to the union, the final 13.3 million dollar bill the NLRB regional office sent the union was 33 times what NLRB lawyers had estimated they would be asked to pay. The NLRB says the union owes the company not only for costs to increase security at its facilities, but also for its lost revenue for unmined coal!

This latest decision provides still more evidence that these miners, fighting an isolated strike in the back hills of Alabama, cannot rely on legalities to get what they need and deserve. The company is determined to break their strike, with the help of courts, police, and, now, the regional NLRB that are friendly to it.

But the miners can have forces on their side, too. There are plenty of other workers facing similar conditions to those of these striking miners and with similar interest, like miners for other companies and other areas, and workers in other industries. Many of them, if called upon, would be happy to join the fight of these striking miners. Bringing more forces into their struggle can push the company and legal authorities back.