And now a judge has said Patriot Coal can just dump its retiree health benefit obligations, because screw it, those miners didn't deserve such good benefits anyway and what else is Patriot going to do? It's not like there's a guarantee anyone can make Peabody pay up for its obvious ploy to save itself those retiree health care costs, whereas union contracts are, to bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States, so much toilet paper. The health benefits being jettisoned were going to people like Alana Green:
"You take a car and go underground, like a trolley," said Green. "The mines are very damp and cold and wet, with a low ceiling. The only lamp you have is on your head, and if you turn that out, you can't even see the hand in front of your face. In the wintertime, you go down in the dark and come back in dark."The Patriot case is about retiree health benefits, but maneuvers like this are also a way pensions have become so rare—companies have devised a staggering array of ways to get out of their pension obligations, with spinning off a company designed to fail being one of those ways. This is why pensions have become so rare. Companies have methodically shed them, and in many cases, workers didn't have unions to fight for them and draw attention to what was happening. Then by the time the companies came for the strongest contracts, people who'd lost their pensions years before were willing to sit by, going, "I don't have a pension, so why should they?"
Green, a grandmother of six, will be 59 years old next month. She suffers from Lyme disease, and her time in the coal mines has left her with black lung and chronic back problems, she told HuffPost.
Yes, I'm a little pissed today. Continue reading below the fold for more of the war on workers.
- Walmart striker fired six months after solo walkout. Not because of her activism, mind you. No, just another of those coincidences that so often befall workplace activists, in this case after nearly eight years on the job.
- Nice priorities Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter have got going.
- Bikeshares are good things for the environment and people's fitness levels. Unfortunately, Alta Bicycle Share, the company responsible for bikeshare programs in Washington, DC, and New York City, isn't living up to its responsibilities to its workers, Sarah Jaffe writes:
According to Swenson, he was hired with the expectation that he would become a full-time bicycle mechanic and that he would receive health benefits, but the benefits didn't materialize. The warehouse where he and the handful of other mechanics worked was housed next to a concrete mill in a Superfund site. The hard work and the silica dust from the concrete made him concerned about when his healthcare would kick in. When he never got a satisfactory answer from the company, he began researching Alta's contract with the city.
“I found out that I was entitled to health benefits, based on federal law, that my employer had agreed to, that I had been paid less than they had agreed [in their contract] to pay me, again according to this federal law,” he says.
- Fast food workers speak out.
- Most disgusting reality show ever?
A reality show set at various small companies, it’s part docuseries, part gauche game show. At each office, the bosses cede authority to the workers, who decide whether to punish their colleagues with pay cuts, demotions or firings.
It bears repeating: This is a show in which people might lose their jobs.
For companies, this is a victory, reinforcing the idea that what’s wrong with the American workplace is the workers. The problems discussed aren’t about the structure of the company, or the state of its chosen industry and market, or the economy as a whole. Employees are the enemy here, bolstering the fanciful and generally wrong idea that one bad apple spoils the lot.
- Workers at Brooklyn's Guitar Center faced dropping commissions after Bain took it over. Now, they've unionized.
- Meanwhile, in Queens, New York, carwasheros have their first contract after unionizing and will get pay raises, safety equipment, and better procedures for fair treatment on the job.