Brookwood miners rally for benefits as Walter Energy announces more layoffs

Local News

BROOKWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — Thousands of miners and their supporters gathered in Brookwood, Wednesday, to rally to protect pensions and healthcare for injured and retired miners and widows. At the same time, Walter Energy announced that it will be laying off 129 workers from Jim Walter Resources No. 4 mine in Brookwood.

In July, Walter Energy filed for bankruptcy, which left many miners concerned about the future of their benefits. “I’ve depended on this insurance since I had to go on disability and retire,” explained Randy Tindle, “and now they’re going through bankruptcy – talking about doing away with it. My wife is covered under that insurance too. I don’t know what we’ll do if they do away with it.”

Tindle was injured in a mine accident back in 1999, when part of a wall collapsed on him. He’s had two major surgeries on his neck. “And it’s something we never thought would be taken away from us,” he said, “because we worked hard, we stayed many days on picket lines and contract strikes to get what we’ve got. We want our promise. They promised us those benefits, and that’s all we’re asking.  Keep your promise.”

Many of the miners in attendance told WIAT 42 that they see legislation as a possible solution. Some believe, it’s the only way they will be guaranteed those benefits.

“And so since we are a nation of laws, we need to change the law,” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who attended Wednesday’s rally after traveling all the way from his home state of Mississippi.  “We need to reflect the commitment that those workers had when they started to work.”

Thompson is co-sponsoring the Coal Healthcare and Pensions Act of 2015 with Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

Sewell also attended Wednesday’s rally and spoke to the crowd. She encouraged them that members of Congress “have your back,” and “we’ll make sure that our retirees have the healthcare that you have earned and the pension you have earned.”

Thompson says that they currently have about 50 signatures, but they will need 218 on the bill to guarantee that it will pass.  “One signature at a time,” he said.  “That’s all that’s required.”

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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