Tuscaloosa County miners on strike following failed contract negotiations


TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – Nearly 1,100 coal mine workers are now on strike after contract negotiations failed between them and Warrior Met Coal.

On Friday, over 60 workers were holding signs and chanting “No contract, No coal” at Mine Entrance 7. Chris Estes has worked in the mines for five years. He said that in recent years, it seems like coal miners were being forgotten in Alabama.

“We haven’t got the payscale that we deserve. Our insurance benefits, our holidays and the things that was promised when all this took place,” Estes said.

Estes was one of many miners with grievances Friday. Charles Bauer said they have to work nearly every holiday, which takes his family time away.

“They ask ‘Papaw, why you got to go to work?’ Because they are making me go to work on a holiday,” Bauer said.

Some of the miners on strike have been with Warrior Met Coal for decades. Terry Martin has worked there for 37 years. He said that in recent months, the company has asked workers to take pay cuts, something he thinks is wrong.

“I’m thinking that we can do better than this. They can do better,” Martin said.

Warrior Met Coal didn’t do an interview with CBS 42, but did leave a statement on the matter:

“BROOKWOOD, Ala. – March 31, 2021 — At Warrior Met Coal, we value and appreciate our employees’ hard work. Simply put, we are only as good as our team. Our priorities have always been keeping people employed with long-lasting careers and ensuring Warrior Met Coal remains financially stable in a particularly volatile coal market.

“With our contract with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) set to expire on April 1, 2021, we have been working in good faith to reach an agreement.

“Throughout negotiations, our sight has remained on the future – to provide our employees with a competitive package while protecting jobs and the longevity of the Company and its workforce.

“History has shown that we must remain vigilant in preparing for the volatility of coal prices. Despite a declining market and global pandemic last year, we are especially proud of the fact that we remained open as an essential industry and were able to protect the livelihood of our 1,400 employees.

“We provide some of the highest paying jobs in Alabama and they contribute immensely to our state’s economy. Metallurgical coal is a vital component in steel manufacturing and is accountable for 50% of the revenue generated by the Alabama State Port Authority. We take this responsibility f”or our employees, neighbors and our state’s economic growth very seriously.

“We have and will continue to work with the UMWA to reach a resolution. While we are disappointed that the UMWA has taken this extreme step to declare a strike while we continue to negotiate in good faith, we have continuity plans in place to continue meeting the demands of our key customers.

“We respect our employees’ contributions to Warrior Met Coal and will not stop working to reach an agreement. The wellbeing of our team is always at the forefront. We remain committed to achieving a package that employees appreciate, that will protect the Company and can provide a stable future.

“But many still feel left out. Miners like Burt Pollard feel their demands aren’t over the top and deserve more.

“For them to get those kind of bonuses, they get twice the days off, they get all the benefits. They get stock in the company, they get this and they get that. But they look at us and expect us not to get paid for a lunch,” Pollard said.

Miners on strike say they will continue this fight as long as it takes.

“As long as it takes. As long as it takes,” Estes said.

CBS 42 did ask for an updated statement on the strikes Friday and are still waiting for a response.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.