Coal miners march to BlackRock headquarters

Hundreds of members of the United Mine Workers of America march to the New York City headquarters of BlackRock on November 4, 2021. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sanders Leads Call for BlackRock to Side With Striking Coal Miners

The Vermont senator and two colleagues urged BlackRock—the largest shareholder in Warrior Met Coal—to publicly demand "an immediate and fair settlement" with striking workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and two of his Senate colleagues on Friday demanded that the Wall Street behemoth BlackRock--the largest shareholder in Warrior Met Coal--intervene on the side of Alabama miners as they continue their strike for fair wages and benefits.

"Mr. Fink must tell the company's executives to sit down and negotiate a fair contract now."

In a letter to BlackRock's billionaire CEO Larry Fink, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) joined Sanders (I-Vt.) in calling on the Wall Street firm to publicly pressure Warrior Met to "negotiate in good faith and agree to a reasonable contract that treats workers with dignity and respect."

The senators noted that miners agreed to a significant pay cut and endured major reductions in healthcare and retirement benefits after Warrior Met's predecessor company, Walter Energy, declared bankruptcy in 2016.

"Now that the company has returned to profitability and has seen its stock price skyrocket by 250% during the pandemic, Warrior Met has offered its workers an insulting $1.50 raise over five years and has refused to restore the healthcare and pension benefits that were taken away from them five years ago," the trio wrote. "Outrageously and unacceptably, the company is demanding the power to fire workers who engage in their constitutional right to strike and give seniority to new hires, rather than miners who have given their adult lives to Warrior Met."

"In our view," they added, "this is precisely the type of corporate greed that the American people are growing increasingly disgusted with."

More than 1,000 miners with Warrior Met have been on strike since April 2021 as the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)--the union representing the striking workers--continues pushing management to agree to a just collective bargaining deal.

Over the course of the nearly 10-month strike, UMWA has accused Warrior Met of engaging in unfair labor practices and committing violence against workers on the picket line.

"We have seen this company act in ways contrary to American labor law from the outset of this strike," UMWA International President Cecil Roberts said in an August statement. "They have targeted our members and their families on the picket lines with vehicular assault and more. We will see where we go from here. We continue to call on the company to get serious about reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable for both sides. As we wait, we continue our unfair labor practice strike."

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In their letter to Fink on Friday, Sanders, Warren, and Baldwin urged BlackRock to demand that Warrior Met management "reach an immediate and fair settlement" with the UMWA. The letter was made public shortly after BlackRock reported earnings that beat analysts' expectations.

"We hope you appreciate the kind of conditions that the miners at Warrior Met have experienced," the senators wrote. "The Warrior Met miners have worked up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The mines they work in are up to 2,100 feet deep and are extremely dangerous, releasing toxic, flammable, and explosive methane gas."

"Given BlackRock's stake in the company and your position within BlackRock," they added, "we are asking you to do the right thing."

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