Alabama coal miners enter "new phase" of historic labor fight with return-to-work letter
Brookwood, Alabama - The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has issued a return-to-work letter for Warrior Met employees nearly two years after Alabama coal miners launched their historic strike.
UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts sent a letter to Met Coal CEO Walt Scheller saying that workers were cleared return to work on March 2 as contract negotiations continue, the union announced in a press release on Thursday.
"We are entering a new phase of our efforts to win our members and their families the fair and decent contract they need and deserve," Roberts said. "We have been locked into this struggle for 23 months now, and nothing has materially changed. The two sides have essentially fought each other to a draw thus far, despite the company’s unlawful bargaining posture the entire time."
The news comes as workers have spent more than 23 months on strike, making it the longest labor strike in Alabama history.
It all started in April 2021, when Warrior Met workers walked out over huge cuts to their wages, benefits, and quality of life after the company was taken over by private equity firms in 2016.
Meanwhile, those same venture capitalists, including the largest shareholder BlackRock, have raked in billions of dollars off the backs of the workers they exploit.
Alabama coal miners and their families show the power of workers standing together
Throughout their nearly two years on strike, the miners have defied expectations and electrified the US labor movement as they took on hedge fund managers, company executives, and corporate-backed politicians.
Workers and their families rallied together to sustain their community through strong mutual aid programs, but holding the line did not come without a toll.
Many families have struggled to make ends meet as the company has brought in temporary workers, known as scabs, to work the mines, paying them more than they were willing to pay their actual workers during contract negotiations.
Ultimately, Roberts and union leadership determined that "the status quo is not good for our members and their families."
"We have long said that we are ready to get in the same room with Warrior Met leadership and stay there until we have an agreement," he added. "So far the company has not been willing to do that."
"I sincerely hope that Warrior Met leadership will accept this offer, get our members back to work, engage in good faith bargaining and finally sit down face-to-face with us to resolve this dispute for the betterment of all concerned."
Cover photo: SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP