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Coalminers on strike for their second Christmas in a row

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

 This will be our last email of the year! When your inbox is empty next week, have no fear, we are not on strike — we’ll just be closed in celebration of New Year’s. Look out for our next email on January 7th. 

AFFT may not be striking for Christmas, but the longest ongoing strike and the longest strike ever in Alabama history is celebrating (if you can call it that) its second Christmas on strike. Coalminers in Alabama have been on strike since April of 2021 – that’s over 600 days.

“The members are holding up really well, but they are tired and ready for a contract. Warrior Met doesn’t want to give them a decent contract after they took a substantial cut in benefits to help Warrior Met Coal become a very profitable company,” said Larry Spencer of the UMWA told The Guardian. “The men and women of the United Mine Workers are sticking together through these hard times, and holidays are some of the hardest.”

Of the 900 coalminers who started the strike, only 500 remain.

At the one year mark, the union, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), had paid out $20 million from their strike fund. Additionally, many of the strikers have side jobs to help make ends meet.

Warrior Met Coal, the striking workers’ employer, has continued operations throughout the strike. Many workers crossed the picket line and other new hires have come from out of state.

The length of the Warrior Met Coal strike is rare– the average strike in the US is only 41 days. Still, the U.S. has seen strikes go on as long as six years.

How long can these workers go without a steady paycheck? Without presents for their kids for the holidays?

When an employer and union are unable to come together and compromise on a contract, it is a failure by both parties whose job it is to negotiate. When a strike continues for this long, we start to wonder if this is a publicity stunt by the union. It is hard to imagine a cut to benefits would be worth over 600 days of pay and financial security.

I’ll certainly have the Alabama coalminers in my thoughts over this holiday weekend.

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Isabel Blank

Isabel Blank is Communications Director at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2021, Isabel worked in media relations at Travelers Insurance and held government affairs and communications roles with Yankee Institute. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, both from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!). Isabel loves Crossfit and supporting her local Connecticut breweries.