Murray American Energy sues union in a coal mine safety dispute

Murray American Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Ohio-based coal producer Murray Energy Corp., announced Sept. 19 that it has sued the United Mine Workers of America union for what the company said is a “repeated and flagrant breach” of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 2011.

For nearly two years, the UMWA has orchestrated an “anti-management campaign,” whereby it has refused to report allegedly unsafe working conditions to management and also refused to make a sincere effort to resolve any such issues with management, said the company. The UMWA’s actions here are in clear violation of the 2011 agreement, and harms the health and safety of coal miners, the company added.

Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Robert E. Murray frequently tells employees that “There is no pound of coal worth getting hurt over,” said the company. It said the UMWA’s failure to report potentially unsafe conditions to management, however, detract from the health and safety of miners and breach a longstanding agreement.

Further, “agents of the UMWA” have filed numerous false complaints against the Murray American companies, which has detracted from safety efforts, financially harmed Murray American, and put the jobs and livelihoods of coal miners at risk, said the company. In its lawsuit, Murray American is seeking to recover the full extent of alleged financial damages, and demands that the UMWA immediately cease and desist from these actions.

The UMWA has posted no statement on this dispute to its website as of Sept. 20. The Murray Energy website says that Murray American Energy is the new name for Consolidation Coal, which Murray acquired in late 2013 and consists of several longwall-equipped mines in northern West Virginia. Murray Energy didn’t say where the lawsuit was filed. A search of the federal court database on Sept. 20 turned up no mention of such a lawsuit in the federal court system.

Murray Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the United States, currently producing approximately 87 million tons of underground mined bituminous coal per year and employing over 7,000 people in six states.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.