A group of mine workers from Alabama who have been on strike for some seven months were arrested Thursday outside the New York City headquarters of BlackRock, the largest investment management company in the world.
Six members of the United Mine Workers of America were arrested during a rally outside of BlackRock, the largest shareholder of Warrior Met Coal, the $1.2-billion firm that operates several coal mines in Alabama.
Nearly 1,000 Warrior Met Coal miners have been on strike against the coal company since April, when union members voted down a contract proposal.
The strike has halted operations at one of the company’s two mines in Alabama, and has limited operations at the other, costing the company almost $7 million in its most recent quarter.
The company has managed to keep up some operations at one of its mines using management staff and strikebreakers. Both coal mines are the deepest in North America, according to the union.
“These workers have had enough of this,” said Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, who was among those arrested Thursday at the rally, according to CNN.
“We’re not asking for something outrageous. We’re not wanting to be millionaires or anything like that. They’re basically wanting to get back to where they were five years ago.”
Several dozen workers came to NYC from the Alabama picket lines for the rally.
“I’m on strike for my family and for my brothers and sisters in the mines. We go down there, it’s a dangerous job, put your life on the line,” said third-generation coal miner Brian Kelly, who was also arrested Thursday, according to CNN.
“We love our jobs, but we’re not getting any respect, we’re not getting any time off — we get Thanksgiving off, Christmas Eve and Christmas as far as holidays — the rest of the holidays we have to work while our families are celebrating holidays,” Kelly told CNN.
D’Andre Wright, a Warrior Met Coal spokesperson, said the union’s demands for the company to make up for lost income they incurred in their previous contract from 2016 is unreasonable.
“When the 2016 collective bargaining agreement was negotiated, no representative of Warrior Met Coal ever indicated to the union in any way that specific terms of any previous contract under which they had worked would be restored in future contracts,” Wright told CNN.
“Our priorities have always been keeping people employed and working safely with long-lasting careers and ensuring the company remains financially stable in a particularly volatile coal market.”
It’s the latest bout of worker unrest to hit America as blue-collar employees reexamine their role in the economy as companies emerge from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers at John Deere have been on strike for nearly a month now as they demand a bigger slice of the pie from the company, which has booked record profits in recent quarters.
And bout 1,400 workers are also striking at Kellogg over pay and benefits issues as well as alleged threats from the company to move production overseas.
Workers at Nabisco plants in five states went on strike in August to protest plans by its parent company, Mondelez International, to move some jobs to Mexico, among other issues.
And earlier in the summer, more than 600 workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas, walked off the job, with one striking worker claiming that employees had to keep working even when someone dropped dead on the job.