Workers arrested at UMWA Demonstration in Henderson

Published: Jun. 4, 2013 at 2:04 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 11, 2013 at 5:22 PM CDT
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Thousands rallied in support of Patriot Coal miners and retirees whose face wage and benefits cuts in Henderson on Tuesday.

The rally in front of the courthouse wrapped up around noon. Many people 14 News spoke with are scared about the future, but after the rally are more hopeful that their voices will be heard.

"I was crushed, just crushed. I was like what am I going to do?" says Patricia Steward, the widow of miner.

Union County resident Patricia Steward says her late husband, Roger, worked in the mines for decades before dying of cancer in 2010. Patricia says Patriot Coal Corporation sent her the letter.

"Once your husband would've turned 55, it changes over to lifetime benefits," Patricia says.

Patricia says Tuesday's rally in Henderson falls on Roger's 55 birthday, but she, along with thousands of others, is worried those benefits aren't here to stay.

"To me, it's a black and white guarantee. How can they just take it away from me when they've got it in black and white?" asks Patricia.

At the end of the rally, Henderson police made 15 arrests for "obstructing traffic."

Bill Londrigan was one of those arrested. He says the group planned what he calls a "civil disturbance."

"What we were trying to do is to make sure people knew how serious we are about making this wrong right," Bill says.

Bill says that while the experience wasn't pleasant, it helps people like Patricia and those retired from and currently working in the mines, be one step closer to having the healthcare they say they've been promised.

"It's a commitment level that you've gotta do," says John Coomes, who was also arrested at the rally.

"I'm okay for now, but you never know what the future holds and it's scary," Patricia says.

Jail officials say all of those arrested have bonded out of jail.

On Tuesday, UMWA members announced their plans to rally in St. Louis and West Virginia several more times before the end of September.

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