A Thousand Coal Miners Are Still On Strike After 4 Months
Michael Argo has spent 13 years working underground at a coal mine in Brookwood, Alabama, just outside Tuscaloosa. It’s the same mine his father worked at, raising Argo on good union wages and excellent health care coverage. When Argo followed in his father’s footsteps, he believed the job would get better with time and seniority. Instead, he said the job has only gotten worse.
“I’m working more than I ever have, and I’m making less money,” said Argo, a 33-year-old longwall miner who logs 10- to 12-hour days, 20 miles deep in the mine.
Argo estimates that he now earns $20,000 less per year than he did six years ago, before the mine emerged from bankruptcy under the ownership of a new company called Warrior Met Coal.
In 2016, Argo and other members of the United Mine Workers of America agreed to a series of concessions to put Warrior Met on sound financial footing. They lost premium pay for Sundays and long shifts. They went from 11 paid company holidays per year to three: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. And they consented to a significantly higher share of health care costs than under previous contracts.