Larry Spencer is the UMWA District 20 Vice President, representing the 1,100 coal miners in three UMWA locals which have been on strike against Warrior Met in Alabama since April 1, 2021. The strikers are fighting to reverse concessions that were foisted on them in 2016 when newly formed Warrior Met Coal bought two mines and one preparation plant during bankruptcy proceedings.
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To keep their jobs, Warrior Met made the miners work up to seven days a week and take a $6-an-hour pay cut, accept reduced health insurance, and give up most of their overtime pay and paid holidays.
BlackRock became one of the three majority shareholders in the new company. Black Rock is the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation.
Since 2016, workers have forked over $1.1 billion in pay, overtime, vacation, safety, health care, and other benefits to help the company regain solvency. Today 26 hedge funds have investments in Warrior Met stock, signaling their confidence in its profitability.
BlackRock’s net income was $1.55 billion in the second quarter of 2021, up 28% from the same period in 2020, and had a record $9.5 trillion in assets at the end of June. Warrior Met makes up just a tiny fraction of BlackRock’s portfolio.
“We want everything back. And then some. That’s the message we’re trying to send to BlackRock,” said Michael Wright, a miner for 16 years.
Strikers were blocking scabs from entering the mines—until the company obtained an injunction to stop them.
On July 28, 1,000 miners and supporters rallied in New York City to protest outside the offices of BlackRock Fund Advisors on East 52nd Street. There, South Dakota Federation of Labor president Kooper Caraway told the crowd, “workers all over the world are going to stand with you and support you, and there’s nothing BlackRock or any other rich asshole can do about it.”
Excessive overtime is a key issue in the strike. Miners have been forced into 12-hour shifts stretching into weekends, without the double pay on Saturday and triple pay on Sunday that they used to get.
Health insurance went from $12 for seeing any doctor to $1,500 family deductible and co-pays up to $250. Given work conditions in a coal mine, health care is vital. Miners face silicosis, black lung, diesel, smoke. Black lung is caused by breathing in coal dust, which silts up the lungs, scarring and destroying them.
The UMWA declared: “The people who manage the Wall Street hedge funds that own Warrior Met don’t know us, they don’t know our families, they don’t know our communities. And they don’t care. All they care about is sucking as much money as they can, every day that they can, from central Alabama.”
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