The UMWA Journal documents Murray’s broken promises to union workers in Ohio and Pennsylvania. When Murray bought the Powhatan No. 6 mine in Alledonia, OH in 1988, he was rescuing a struggling mining operation with over 300 employees. He sat down with the workers to negotiate a new contract that promised if the mine ever had to hire more workers, they would give first choice of the jobs to workers previously laid off in 3 other area mines.
"When he first launched his company, the UMWA enjoyed a good working relationship with Murray," explained Secretary-Treasurer Carlo Tarley. "Murray acknowledged that he needed our help to make this operation succeed, and we indicated our willingness to help him achieve that goal. In addition, he agreed to recall the 1, 3 and 5 miners, which the union viewed as a positive development. It was Murray who first proposed the recall language in bargaining, and we wasted no time incorporating it into the contract."
This language stayed in through contract changes in 1993 and 1996. Notice that the 1996 renegotiation even included a wage freeze through 2001 I’d say that was pretty generous of the workers, wouldn’t you?
Everything was going reasonably well, and in 1993 Murray again signed the national agreement, which at Powhatan included the same panel rights language for the 1, 3 and 5 miners. "But then in 1996, Murray asked us to open the contract because he needed a wage freeze through 2001," recalled Tarley. "He said it was so he could establish coal orders and show his customers that there would be long-term labor stability. The issue of the 1, 3 and 5 panel members' recall rights was never raised at this point, and the language remained in the new agreement we reached."
But when new workers were needed for the No. 6 mine, he would not hire the previously laid off miners.
That year, Murray met personally with District 6 president Larry Ward to tell him that he needed more miners at Powhatan No. 6, but he was not willing to hire laid-off miners on the North American 1,3 and 5 panels, even though he had agreed in the last three contracts to grant them first rights. "Murray told me flat-out he was not going to hire from the 1, 3 and 5 panels," recalled Ward. "He told the press it was because they came with 'costly health and pension benefits.' He also asked us to consider relinquishing our members' panel rights. When we declined, Murray called me again to say that he no longer needed to hire more miners. He also threatened that he was preparing to buy more land surrounding the Powhatan operation and that he intended to operate just 'one mine'."
So, not only did he NOT hire the workers, he wanted the workers to give up their panel rights. Warm and fuzzy guy, no?
A similar story happened in 1995 at the Maple Creek Mine in Pennsylvania. Murray had purchased a struggling mine and asked the workers to help out financially until the mine could turn a profit.
Negotiations on a new contract were tough, breaking down several times, but in the end the L.U. 1248 members voted to ratify an agreement that froze their wages through June 2002. (The union then negotiated an extension of that contract through December 2002 to coincide with the expiration of the UMWA's national agreement with the BCOA.) The Maple Creek and Powhatan contracts also contain language that says the union agrees to accept a lesser rate of pay but will also have the ability to audit both mines' financial records on a regular basis to ensure the company is being accurate with the UMWA about its profitability. This was inserted because if the mines were to turn a profit it would trigger a higher wage rate for the miners. "Initially, we were willing to bite the bullet to keep this mine operating," recalled L.U. 1248 safety chairman Leon Moscalink. "But when Murray came to us last year asking for a further contract extension through 2006, we voted 335–10 against that idea."
So, he asks for ANOTHER extension to keep the wages frozen through 2006! At the time all this is happening, another mine is being developed beside the current Maple Creek Mine and language was inserted in a 1996 contract extension that Maple Creek miners would have first dibs on those jobs. But after they voted against the 2006 contract extension this was Murray’s response:
Shortly after the Maple Creek miners overwhelming vote against the company's proposed extension, Murray was quoted in the press saying "the Maple Creek miners have voted themselves out of job,"—a direct reference to the jobs at the new mine, which is now being developed. "By contract, the jobs at Murray's new mine belong to the Maple Creek membership," said Tarley. "Murray can try and skirt around it all he wants, but it's right there in black and white. I think he honestly believes he can simply walk away from his verbal and written promise, but we are not going to let that happen."
Profit over people. Every time.