Friday, November 12, 2004

Reforming Federal Bankruptcy Laws

Passing motorists and pedestrians were flashed signs like these.

In the coming weeks Keep the Promise to the Coal Miners will be joining forces with the United Mine Workers of America in a campaign to Reform Federal Bankruptcy Laws which are destroying our economy and countless lives of workers, retirees and communities.

On August 31 in Lexington, Kentucky despite three protest rallies and much public outcry, U.S. Federal Judge William S. Howard granted Horizon Natural Resources bankruptcy request
leaving thousands of coal miners, some sick from black lung disease, without health care.

July 20, 2004 Horizon Rally

The judge ruled that Horizon Natural Resources, the nation's fourth largest coal company, does not have to honor union contracts that guaranteed benefits for 1,000 active miners and some 2,300 retirees.

The nation's flawed federal bankruptcy laws are not only hurting Horizon coal miners, but also the dreams of workers across the nation at companies like Enron, WorldCom and Bethlehem and Weirton Steel. The reality in America today is that people can work hard all their lives to earn a good pension, health care and other benefits but with just one stroke of a pen, a bankruptcy judge can take it all away–and the practice is alarmingly becoming more and more common. While it is true a lot of important issues will be debated during the course of the upcoming election season, near the top of every working person's list should be the need for our elected officials to reform America's bankruptcy laws–and our labor laws. If genuine reform does not happen, more and more working Americans will soon end up in the same boat as the Horizon Natural Resources employees and retirees.

October 21,2004 Horizon Community Impact Hearing, Smithers, WV

Thankfully, the UMWA’s efforts to highlight the need for reform of America’s bankruptcy laws have not gone unnoticed. Our friends in Congress are now contacting us to ask what they can do to help. At our Aug. 31, 2004 rally in Lexington, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., addressed the crowd, telling them that what is happening is wrong and strongly supporting our calls for reform. And Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has recently issued statements saying he intends to introduce legislation that addresses the anti-worker bias of America’s bankruptcy laws. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and Reps. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., are also pledging to help.

The entrance to the federal bankruptcy court is wall-to-wall protesters.

Keep the Promise to the Coal Miners is pledging its support to the Reforming Federal Bankruptcy Laws campaign and will be there every step of the way with the UMWA and others seeking to end the injustice of Corporate Bankruptcy in this country.

Howard Green (far left) led protesters on this corner to make sure the UMWA's message was heard.

Keep checking this site and we hope to have information on the launch of a Reform Bankruptcy Laws website, petitions and activism links.

Thank You

I would like to thank everyone who helped in the Keep the Promise to the Coal Miners campaign.

Without the help of those who signed the petition, members of the Keep the Promise to the Coal Miners group, the United Mine Workers of America and various other labor unions locals like the United Autoworkers in Winchester, Kentucky this campaign would not garnered as much attention as it did.

Over 1,000 signatures were sent to Congress urging the passage of HR 3796, which would continue funding to the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefits Funds and Orphan Funds.

Now we can only wait and see if during this "Lame Duck" Session of Congress we can get this very important measure passed.

I can assure everyone that Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) are working hard to make sure the Promise is Kept to the Coal Miners and understand fully that thousands of retired coal miners are depending on this legislation to be passed.

Grassroots activism works...don't ever forget that.