CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dozens of retired coal miners from around the country are sending handwritten letters to a federal judge in New York City to let her know how they feel about the Patriot Coal bankruptcy and its potential impact on their pensions and health-care benefits.
More than 100 such letters have in recent days been added to the court record of the case, which the United Mine Workers union is hoping to have moved to bankruptcy court in Southern West Virginia.
In one of the letters, Arley and Alice Pettry, of Whitesville, say that Patriot miners "gave their very best years in health to make billions" for coal companies, only to be faced with losing their health-care benefits just when they need them most.
"I would just like to say in my own voice the indignity that I am feeling at this moment," the letter said. "I would like for those few to sit back and put themselves in our places."
Leon Smith, a retired miner from Nortonville, Ky., told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley C. Chapman that he took early retirement from his mining job to ensure he kept his pension and health-care benefits.
"I felt that my insurance and my pension were more important to me and my family," Smith wrote. "And now they are trying to take this all away and I feel that it is very unfair to me because I would be unable to buy the medicine that I need and my hospital care that could come at a later date."
Geraldine Bardle, a miner's widow from Pinckneyville, Ill., told the judge she's afraid she'll have to sell her home to pay her medical expenses if Patriot is able to shed itself of liability for such payments. Bardle has twice been diagnosed with breast cancer and currently takes medication for hormones lost during her treatments.