The UMW's 1974 Pension Plan provides benefits to retired miners who once worked for companies that went out of existence or went bankrupt.
Rahall said Patriot's bankruptcy could add another 12,000 retired miners to the union's already-troubled 1974 plan.
The declining number of working union miners and the rising number of retirees are causing major financial problems. Late last year, the UMW said it represented about one-third of all working miners and that two-thirds of its members were retirees.
Last month, Rahall said, "At present, there are only about 10,000 active mineworkers supporting pension payments for nearly 95,000 retirees. This severe underfunding of the UMWA's 1974 Pension Plan, coupled with the stress the fund is experiencing as a result of the recent financial crisis, has placed it on a path to insolvency."
Patriot Coal offers other interesting statistics in "Our Current Challenges," a section on its website.
"We are the second largest employer of UMWA miners in the United States. While less than 11.4 percent of miners currently employed in the U.S. coal industry are represented by the UMWA, approximately 40 percent of Patriot's employees are."
Patriot also states that the number of working union miners dropped from 127,500 in 1975 to 10,427 in 2010.
The decline in the number of miners represented by the UMW, Patriot states, "has resulted in fewer active employees to fund the benefits of an increasing number of retirees and their dependents."
Patriot provides some form of benefits to more than five times the number of its active employees.
Today, the company operates 11 mining complexes in central Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. It ships coal to domestic and international electric power companies, metallurgical coal customers and other industrial users.
The company owns or controls about 1.8 billion tons of coal reserves.
The UMW plans to demonstrate in front of Peabody's headquarters in downtown St. Louis Monday morning.
"The bankruptcy judge may have made her decision about Patriot, but the jury is still out on Peabody and Arch, and that's why we'll be in St. Louis again," UMW President Cecil Roberts said. "Peabody and Arch executives caused this problem, and they need to be part of the solution. We're going to keep the pressure on -- in the courts, in Congress and on the streets of St. Louis and other communities."
Last year, the UMW filed a lawsuit in Charleston, at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, alleging that Peabody and Arch violated the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by working to end "contractually-guaranteed lifetime health care benefits for retirees."
The case is before U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.
Roberts said the union also is working with Democratic and Republican members of Congress to find legislative remedies to the problems faced by miners working for companies like Patriot.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.