Shared Services and Other Bad Ideas

The Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186, Save Our Community Coalition, and the University of Texas at Austin Graduate Student Assembly present

Shared Services and Other Bad Ideas,

a presentation by Dr. Robert Ovetz about an incredibly bad idea proposed by a committee of business executives that would have the University of Texas at Austin spend as much as $180 million to eliminate 500 UT Austin jobs through consolidation and privatization.

When: Thursday Nov. 7 at 7:00 P.M.

Where: UT LBJ School, Sid Richardson Hall, Room 3.124

Dr Ovetz will discuss the corporatization of UT and describe how UT has engaged in “planned austerity” to funnel money to corporations and force the university community to pay for it. Join the discussion and find out how we can come together to maintain UT as a quality public university.

Bank workers of the world unite

In Brazil, private sector bank employees recently returned to work after a 23-day strike that won them a substantial pay raise.

In St. Louis, members of CWA passed out leaflets to bank employees urging them to get involved in the union’s Press One for America campaign.

The two events nearly 4,500 miles apart are not unrelated.

In a recent union hall teleconference, CWA President Larry Cohen told members that the Brazilian bank workers’ union, CONTRAF, has been in contact with CWA urging it to consider helping US bank workers to organize.

Brazilian bank employees have a strong union, but they will need some help in maintaining their strength in the face of a changing world economy.

Since 2004, CONTRAF, which has 400,000 members and represents about 95 percent of the banks’ non-management employees, has been in a running battle with Brazil’s private banks to raise pay and improve working conditions.

Negotiations have not been easy, and nearly every year union workers have had to strike to win a fair pay increase despite “years in which Brazilian banks enjoyed record profits.”

Despite the banks’ prosperity, their employees receive modest wages. The Wall Street Journal reports that Brazilian bank employees’ average monthly salary is $2,000, only slightly above Brazil’s average salary of $1848 a month.

This year, banks offered a 7.1percent pay increase, which is about the national inflation rate. Union members wanted more.

The strike ended after workers ratified an agreement that raises all wages by 8 percent, increases base pay by 8.6 percent, includes a profit-sharing plan that could increase wages by up to 2 percent, and pays workers for the time that they were on strike, all of which puts the wage increase close to the 11.9 percent originally demanded by the union.

In addition, the new contract changes work rules to protect workers from mistreatment on the job.

US banks have a presence in Brazil, but not a big one. The Bank of Brazil, owned by the government, is the country’s largest bank. But privately owned domestic banks like Itau Unibanco own a substantial share of the market.

But that could change as more US bank’s look to expand in Brazil.

“Brazil represents one of the most important strategic markets globally and our new banking license will significantly enhance our ability to meet the securities servicing needs of our clients,” said Gerald Hassle, chair, president, and CEO of New York Mellon in a press release after the bank in 2012 was awarded a license to expand in Brazil.

According to the Citigroup website, “Brazil is a major player in Citi’s emerging markets strategy.”

Citigroup through Citi Brazil already has branches in 20 cities that provide an array of services.

As US banks increase their presence in Brazil, CONTRAF leaders reasoned that if the union wants to maintain its current level of union density and strength, it may need allies in the US, which led them to contact CWA.

CWA in the meantime has been organizing a campaign to save call center jobs in the US.

The Press One for America campaign aims to pass legislation that stops the federal government from providing federal loans and grants to companies that ship jobs, including call center jobs, overseas. It would also require a call center to inform customers where the call center is located and give customers the opportunity to be transferred to a US call center.

Since customer service bank jobs are being outsourced overseas, CWA leaders decided to let bank employees know about the campaign and give them a chance to participate and learn first hand what a union can do for them.

CWA chose St Louis to begin its outreach to bank employees because the city is one of the fastest growing financial services centers in the country.

According to CWA, employment in St Louis’ financial services grew by 85 percent between 2007 and 2013.

Members from CWA locals 6300, 6350 and 6355; Missouri Jobs with Justice; and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment on October 24 leafleted work locations of Citibank, Wells Fargo, Pulaski Bank, and Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority. They also got signatures on a petition supporting HR 2909 and SB 1565, the Press One legislation.

According to a post on the CWA website, “The response to the outreach was overwhelming.”

At Wells Fargo, employees happily stopped and talked to (union) activists outside their building. At Citibank, workers came outside on their breaks specifically to ask questions; coincidentally, the company had announced that week that it intended on outsourcing 100 call center jobs in the complex.

Jeff Spraul, Local 6300 president, said that CWA plans to be a regular presence at these banks.

“We plan to be active two days a week,” said Spraul. “It’s not a one and done situation. Building a movement takes time – consistent effort and consistent determination.”

Wisconsin judge rules against anti-worker law; unions seek new ways to rebuild union power

A Wisconsin judge recently ordered officials of the state labor relations commission to stop enforcing portions of Article 10, the 2011 law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that curtailed collective bargaining rights for the state’s teachers and other public service workers.

Union members and leaders applauded the ruling, but the state will appeal it. An appeal will eventually be heard by the state’s Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority.

Meanwhile some unions aren’t waiting on a final ruling; instead, they’re pursuing new strategies to rebuild the union movement among Wisconsin’s public service workers.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled in 2012 that Article 10 applied only to state employees and not to city, county, and school district employees.

Despite the ruling, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission continued to enforce the law, taking away collective bargaining rights of workers as their contracts expired.

The judge on October 21 found commission officials to be in contempt and issued an injunction barring them from decertifying unions representing city, county, and school district employees. The ruling however, does not restore all rights eliminated by Article 10. For instance, it does not restore the right to binding arbitration to settle grievances and other work related issues.

Even before Judge Colas made his ruling, some unions found new ways to blunt the impact of Article 10.

For example, the University of Wisconsin at Madison Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) decided that it would act like a union whether or not the law recognizes its right to exist.

Article 10 as James Cersonsky reports in Salon requires public service unions to win annual representation elections in order to remain legally recognized by an employer.

TAA recognized that such a requirement was meant to sap union resources and keep them from being effective, so the union decided to forego the elections and instead mobilize its members for collective action.

The result was a “Pay Us Back” campaign aimed at raising pay for teaching assistants and project assistants.

Members held grade-ins at administrative offices, lobbied academic departments to support a pay raise, circulated petitions, and organized a mass e-mail campaign.

As a result, UW Madison recently announced a 4.67 percent pay increase for teaching assistants and project assistants, which raises their pay to the same level as research assistants.

“We realize this is a fairness issue and have been in discussions with graduate assistants  for about a year,” said Darrell Bazzell, vice-chancellor for Finance and Administration, to the UW News,

“This is just the start,” said a posting on the TAA website. “We will continue to fight for more take home pay, including seg fee remission. We win when our union is strong, and when we demonstrate our worth and our power on this campus.”

Meanwhile 5,000 workers at the University of Wisconsin Health Center in Madison are using political leverage and a grassroots campaign on the job to ensure that high quality patient care is maintained and workers continue to have a voice on the job after their current contracts expire.

UWHC workers were specifically targeted in Article 10, which means that when current contracts expire, UWHC administration will no longer be required to bargain collectively.

Three unions, AFSCME Council 24, AFT Wisconsin Science Professionals, and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, have joined together to form 5,000 Strong, a grassroots campaign aimed at maintaining the workers collective voice on the job.

According to a report by SEIU Wisconsin Healthcare and AFSCME Council 24, collective bargaining in addition to providing fair wages and benefits has given workers a voice in decisions affecting patient care, which has “strengthened the culture of quality care at UWHC.”

5,000 Strong is mobilizing members to assert their collective voice.

Members in July urged the Madison Common Council, the city’s city council, to approve a resolution supporting the recognition of the workers’ unions at UWHC.

On the day that the resolution came up for a vote, union members packed the council’s chambers. Some spoke in support of the resolution.

“The state is trying to impose a radical change on something that has been working very well,” said Willie Backes an AFSCME member and a senior respiratory therapist at UWHC. “They are trying to force an ideology on us and ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken.  This poses a huge threat to quality care and hurts Madison, the region and the entire state.”

Backes noted in is remarks that UWHC has once again been rated Wisconsin’s top hospital.  But that tradition of excellence is in danger if employees are denied a voice on the job. “We think Act 10 was a terrible mistake for everyone,” said Backes. “But it makes absolutely no sense for an independent authority that doesn’t rely on taxpayer support.”

UWHC receives no state revenue.

5,000 Strong in September also won the backing of the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

The goal of the city and county resolutions and 5,000 Strong’s grassroots mobilization is to convince UWHC to”recognize our unions  as the voice of the employees and commit to continue policies embodied in collective bargaining agreements.”

5,000 Strong notes that Dade County recently took action to maintain rights that union members have won through collective bargaining.

I”t’s time for UWHC to do the right thing, said a posting on the 5,000 Strong website. “Work with our unions to give their employees a voice and protection on the job.”

More green jobs is key to reversing global warming

Environmentalists and union leaders on October 18 gathered at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburg for a roundtable discussion on how the two movements can work together to reverse global warming and create good paying jobs in a green economy.

“In our union, we have seen firsthand that we can have both good jobs and work towards a clean, green environment,” said Leo Gerard,  USW international president. “But we also have seen the pain that comes when these jobs get shipped overseas. A bright future for young people is one where we have a sustainable environment and a healthy economy that is built around domestic manufacturing that helps us achieve our clean energy goals.”

The roundtable, organized by the BlueGreen Alliance, was held in conjunction with the Power Shift conference, a gathering of young leaders of the environmental justice movement.

On Friday evening, Gerard addressed the conference. “Global warming is here, and we can work and get it fixed together,” said Gerard as reported by the Associated Press.

The key, according to Gerard and other USW leaders is to build a strong alliance that demands more public and private investment in green energy and technology and keeping the jobs created by those investments here in the US.

Keeping these new green jobs in the US will create new job opportunities for workers displaced by the transition from old, dirty energy to new, green energy.

“America’s workers are a key stakeholder in the clean economy,” said Tom Conway, USW International vice president. “If we double-down on investments in home-grown clean energy technologies like wind and solar, we’ll see the benefits multiply in domestic manufacturing and the construction and installation of these projects.”

A new report by the International Energy Agency shows that wind power, one of the more promising green energy sources, could play an increasingly important role in supplying the world’s energy needs, but doing so will require significant new investments.

According to the report, wind power could supply as much as 18 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050. It currently provides 2.6 percent. But to achieve this increase, it will take $150 billion per year in new investments.

The report said that improved technology has made wind turbines more efficient, which makes it possible to install them in places other than windy locations such as seasides or mountain ridges.

One way that the US government could encourage more investment in wind energy is by reauthorizing the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which increases the demand for wind turbines.  PTC is set to expire at the end of 2013.

“To compete, we need certainty. We need sustainability,” said Brad Molinick, a member of USW Local 2635 at the Gamesa wind turbine plant in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. “We need to put in place a longer extension to the tax credits. This is the manufacturing of the future.  There’s this opportunity, and we could really take off and bring manufacturing back to America, but we need certainty.”

Another investment that could improve the environment and create green jobs is for manufacturers to invest in lowering their energy consumption.

A new report by the BlueGreen Alliance finds that doing so will make companies more competitive by saving them money and at the same time create more green jobs.

The report estimates that a 21 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2020 will save manufacturers $47 billion a year.

According to the report, investments in energy consumption (add) value to . . . companies, (free) up capital that would otherwise be spent on energy inputs, (preserve) existing jobs, and (create) new jobs in the construction and retrofitting of (existing) facilities.”

Conway said that unless the US acts boldly to develop its green industries it could be left behind, and if creating good paying jobs in the green industries is not part of the agenda its hard to see how we can achieve environmental justice.

“If we commit to alternative energy without investing in jobs, it doesn’t do us any good,” said Conway.  “We need to be the ones building the supply chain.”

BART strike ends

Negotiators for two unions announced late Monday night that the four-day strike at San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is over.

“Tonight the hard working men and women who keep the Bay Area moving, can go back to work making BART the most efficient and successful system in the country,”
said John Arantes, BART Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021, whose members maintain and repair BART’s trains and equipment.

“We will go back to work and continue our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving,” said Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, whose members operate the trains and staff the stations.

According to a statement by Local 1021 the tentative agreement “prioritizes rider and worker safety” and provides a “reasonable raise.” The statement also said that the unions compromised on pension and health care costs and that the new work rules in the agreement “allow for innovation and input from workers.”

Union members will need to ratify the agreement before it becomes effective.

Management’s last-minute demand for work rule changes triggered the strike, which began on Friday, October 18.

The work rule demand came just when it appeared that the two sides had reached an agreement that could have avoided a strike.

Traditionally, the strike has been the key to workers’ power, but in this instance BART management seemed to be goading workers into going on strike, perhaps with the goal of either weakening or busting the unions.

BART’s strategy began to reveal itself six months ago when it hired Thomas Hock as a consultant to lead the negotiations.

According to the East Bay Express Hock had an anti-union history:

Last year, transit workers in Phoenix and Tempe staged a six-day strike against Veolia Transportation. Arizona’s cities have privatized their bus operations, and Veolia holds the contracts. Hock led his company’s campaign against its workers. It was a bruising fight that required the intervention of federal authorities.

In hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Veolia was found to have engaged in “regressive, bad-faith, and surface bargaining,” and numerous other unfair labor practices prior to the Phoenix bus strike. Hock was in charge at the time.

When negotiations began, BART demanded big concessions even though ridership and revenue had increased.

Instead of engaging in serious collective bargaining, BART launched a sophisticated media campaign aimed at demonizing its union workers.

The results were predictable. No agreement was reached, and a four-day strike began in late June. It ended after a judge ordered a 60-day cooling off period, and the two sides returned to the bargaining table.

BART, however, continued its anti-union media campaign, and serious bargaining didn’t begin again until another strike deadline approached.

Some progress was made as both sides made compromises, but on Sunday, October 13, BART cut off negotiations, made a final last best offer, and told the unions to take it or leave it. BART’s actions appeared to be aimed at provoking a strike.

The unions refused the offer but instead of striking urged management to return to the bargaining table, which it did.

Three days later the two sides reached an agreement on economic issues, but just when the unions thought that they had a deal that they could take to their members, BART demanded work rule changes that it knew workers wouldn’t accept.

“The rules (that BART wanted to change) we’re focused on protecting basic (worker) rights,” said Pete Castelli ,executive director of Local 1021.  “Like the 8-hour workday.  Like past practice language that protect our workers from punishment and retribution when they report favoritism, sexual harassment, and other problems in the workplace.”

Some of the changes that BART demanded also involved the introduction of new technologies, some of which put the safety of workers and passengers at risk,

“After telling the public that their main goal at the bargaining table was saving money to buy new trains, BART management blew up negotiations by insisting that
employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for economic well-being,” said Castelli. “This was a poison pill for workers: choose between your paycheck and your
rights.”

The union sought to avert a strike by proposing that a final decision on these last-minute demands be left to a neutral arbitrator.

Management refused, forcing a strike on October 18 that shut down public commuter services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Improving safety for riders and workers had been one the unions’ priorities during negotiations, but management refused to take the issue seriously.

But a tragic accident on the day after the strike began drove home the importance the safety issues.

Two people inspecting BART tracks were killed when they were hit by a train being used to train management personnel to operate trains during the strike. A trainee was at the controls but, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the train was on autopilot when the accident occurred.

A day after the accident, the unions made a counter proposal to end the strike.

According to the unions’ statement:

The new counter proposal allows for the continued use of new technology in the workplace but protects workers from changes in work rules that would lead to unsafe conditions.

At the same time, BART workers say, they will insist on retaining work rules protect their members from workplace accidents, like the one that occurred yesterday, and that safeguard the riding public.

The accident appears to have caused BART management to take the safety issues more seriously, and the two sides reached an agreement a day after the unions made their counter proposal.

Details about the agreement that settled the strike have not been made public;, but union leaders said that the agreement addresses the safety issues.

“We are proud to bring a tentative agreement that prioritizes rider and worker safety to our members for a vote,” said Des Patten, president of Local1021’s BART Professional Chapter. (The agreement) preserves important workplace protections that enable workers to continue working with management to improve a rapidly growing system.”

Accenture’s track record: a brief history lesson

The Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186 in a recent broadcast to members said that it obtained a draft of the University of Texas at Austin’s Shared Services Plan, which the union describes as a blueprint for consolidating and privatizing campus services.

Among other things, the plan calls for the consolidation of IT, human resources, and financial services that would eliminate 500 of the 2,500 jobs in these departments.

The Shared Services Plan is part of larger plan entitled Smarter Systems for a Greater UT, drafted by the Committee on Business Productivity.

The committee is composed of 13 business executives and led by Steve Rohleder of Accenture.

The Shared Services Plan estimates that the proposed consolidation will save $30 million to $40 million a year over the next ten years, but in order to realize these savings, UT will need to invest $160 million to $180 million to build new services and reporting capabilities, redesign processes and jobs, provide training, and enhance technologies.

According to Seth Hutchinson, TSEU’s organizing coordinator, Accenture and some of the other corporations represented on the committee will likely bid on the multi-million contracts needed to implement the Shared Services Plan.

A brief history lesson might be in order before UT commits millions of dollars in public funds to a plan drafted by Accenture and its cohorts.

Back in the mid 1980s, the Texas Attorney General’s child support program was not meeting its goals.

Then Attorney General Jim Mattox called in Arthur Andersen, one the US’ big five accounting firms, to conduct a review of the program and recommend improvements.

The review was conducted by Arthur Andersen’s consulting division, which eventually renamed itself Andersen Consulting and established itself as an independent company. In the early aughts, Andersen Consulting rebranded itself as Accenture.

Among other things, Andersen/Accenture recommended that the Child Support Division build a new computer system.

Since the child support system was antiquated and the federal government was requiring all states to build new systems anyway, the attorney general decided to follow the Andersen/Accenture recommendation.

Coincidentally, Andersen/Accenture bid on and won the contract for the design and development of the new system that would come to be called TXCSES.

Work on TXCSES began in 1991 and was supposed to be completed by 1993.

But the project took four years longer than planned. The Texas State Auditor’s Office reported in 1997 before implementation of TXCSES that the delay was partially due to “problems with design of the system and unresolved issues between (Andersen/Accenture) and the Office of the Attorney General.”

The Texas Sunset Commission in a 1998 report said that the cost of TXCSES was originally estimated to be $24 million but ballooned to $75 million.

The commission also reported that “TXCSES is a major source of problems associated with delays in (child support) payments to the families” and that “one year after implementation there were 865 outstanding requests (by users) to change TXCSES.”

One of TXCSES’ design flaws was that it had to be taken off line for up to 30 hours at the end of the month for periodic batch runs. The shutdowns delayed payments going to families at the end and beginning of months.

In another report, the commission noted that after the Andersen/Accenture-designed system was implemented, the child support program failed to meet five of the program’s six key productivity measures.

After TXCSES came online, only a handful of Andersen/Accenture staff remained on the job. Nearly all of the work it took to fix TXCSES was done by state employees, who the commission said were underpaid and worked in a department that was understaffed.

It took state workers three years to fix TXCSES, but finally in 2000, the child support program was able to meet or exceed its productivity measures.

Five years later, another state agency decided to contract with Accenture to redesign the way that Texas provided health and human services.

In 2003, the state legislature passed HB 2292, which among other things called for the consolidation and privatization of Texas’ health and human services.

Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth sponsored HB 2292, and she had help from a former staffer named Chris Britton drafting the bill.

After HB 2292 passed, Britton went to work for Accenture.

In 2005, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) awarded to Accenture an $899 million contract to redesign its services as required by HB 2292.

In 2007, DHHS fired Accenture because wrote State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Harlingen Valley Morning Star., “it failed miserably to provide services or save money.”

After the firing was announced, the Corpus Christi Times ran an editorial describing some the redesign failures:

The promised $646 million in savings never materialized from the deal that would have transferred the job of determining eligibility for social services to private call centers. Instead, thousands of families complained of abandoned phone calls, long waits, lost records, abruptly canceled coverage for children’s health insurance, and faxed applications that disappeared.

Accenture’s work took a farcical turn when hundreds of faxed applications for services ended up in a Seattle warehouse.

Accenture’s farce descended into tragedy with the death of 14-year old Devonte Johnson, who died of stomach cancer. His mother’s application for insurance from the Children’s Health Insurance Program was inexplicably mishandled by an Accenture call center causing a delay in his treatment.

After Accenture’s contract was terminated, DHHS’ then Executive Director Albert Hawkins told legislators that the cost of the redesign project was $500 million and that the agency had paid Accenture $186 million. When asked whether the state had realized any savings, Hawkins could not identify any.

According to Sen. Lucio, “the Accenture contract . . . cost the state $100 million more than budgeted, while fewer children and families received the needed benefits.”

Once again, state workers had to step in and clean up Accenture’s mess.

Hutchinson said, TSEU wants to ensure that state employees at UT won’t have to do the same.

“Silence and lack of involvement does no good,” said Hutchinson to UT workers. “The only response that has any chance of stopping this is plan is to stand up and fight back in defense of our jobs, our livelihoods and our future. It is time to get involved. Join the union!”

Miners’ campaign wins health care funding for Patriot retirees

After more than a year of mobilizations that included non-violent direct action, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) succeeded in making Peabody Energy take responsibility for providing health care to thousands of the company’s retired miners.

The UMWA and Peabody on October 10 reached an agreement that requires Peabody, the world’s largest private sector coal company, to pay more than $400 million to cover health care benefits for retired miners in danger of losing their benefits because of the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal, a Peabody spin off.

“I am very pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement with Peabody and Patriot,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “This is a significant amount of money that will help maintain health care for thousands of retirees who earned those benefits though years of labor in America’s coal mines. This settlement will also help Patriot emerge from bankruptcy and continue to provide jobs for our members and thousands of others in West Virginia and Kentucky.”

Since Patriot filed for bankruptcy in 2012, the UMWA has contended that Patriot was set up to fail, so that Peabody could avoid its responsibility to its retired miners.

When Peabody spun off Patriot in 2007, it saddled the new company with 43 percent of Peabody’s pension and retiree health care liabilities but provided only 11 percent of its productive assets.

When Patriot filed for bankruptcy, it looked like the Peabody retirees would lose their health care and see their pensions cut. Working miners were also looking at a big pay cut and loss of benefits.

But UMWA fought back by organizing the Fairness at Patriot campaign.

The campaign mobilized thousands of retired and active union members to attend rallies, picket, write letters, testify, and engage in non-violent direct action that resulted in arrests.

The union also sought the support of civil rights groups, religious leaders, and other unions.

In April, thousands of UMWA members and their supporters massed in Charlestown, West Virginia to demand fairness at Patriot.

The union also organized constant demonstrations and rallies at Peabody’s headquarters in St. Louis.

Hundreds of UMWA members, civil rights activists, religious leaders, and leaders and activists of other unions were arrested at sit-ins at the headquarters.

At times, the UMWA efforts looked futile.

In June, a bankruptcy judge approved a Patriot reorganization plan that cut pay and benefits for miners and under funded the retirees’ Voluntary Employees Benefit Association, which provides health care to Peabody retired miners.

Despite the judge’s ruling, the UMWA continued its Fairness at Patriot campaign and eventually reached an agreement with Patriot that restored some of the pay and benefit cuts for those still working in the mines. It also required the company to continue to contribute to the miners’ pension fund.

But the VEBA was still under funded, leading UMWA to announce that the fight for fairness at Patriot was still on.

The union continued its mass rallies and demonstrations at Peabody and continued to receive support from its allies.

Finally on October 10, Peabody and the UMWA reached an agreement.

The union would call off its mobilizations and Peabody would pay $400 million over four years to the Patriot VEBA.

In a statement about the settlement, Roberts said that the agreement will sustain health care for retirees for the time being, but legislation in Congress is needed for a long-term solution.

“This settlement, as significant as it is, still does not provide the level of funding needed to maintain health care for these retirees forever,” Roberts said. “That is why we are continuing our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress that will put these retirees under the Coal Act, meaning their long-term health care benefits would be secured at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

HR 2918, introduced in the House by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), would accomplish this goal. Currently the bill has 24 co-sponsors from both parties. SB 468, a companion, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and currently has six co-sponsors.

The union will also continue to pressure Arch Coal, which also jettisoned its retiree obligations onto Patriot, to follow suit with Peabody.