"This goes a long way to preserve not only jobs for working employees, but also to retain health care for those who are retired. We put in all those years, all that time, all the dangerous things we did. We felt they were trying to walk away from us. We found out we can still work with them.
"Everyone would have lost with the liquidation of Patriot," Jarrell said. "There would have been hardships on both sides. Both working and retired employees would be hurt really bad. And the economy around here would have suffered."
Jarrell was not the first member of his family to work for Eastern.
"The promise for lifetime health care was made to my grandfather when he was a miner. It has been there all along. I am glad to see it is going to be continued," Jarrell said.
Now that Patriot is no longer in immediate danger, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said the union would focus its efforts on Peabody and Arch.
"We are now able to turn our full attention to securing the lifetime health-care benefits Peabody and Arch promised these retirees," Roberts said in a statement Friday. "If those companies thought our public effort to highlight their poor corporate citizenship was over, they will quickly find out otherwise."
West Virginia's political leaders were quick to praise the agreement.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller praised Roberts for negotiating the settlement approved in Friday's vote.
Rockefeller called the new labor contract "a ray of hope for Patriot miners and retirees after their hard-earned pensions and health-care benefits were jeopardized by May's court decision.
"Cecil waged a hard fought battle on behalf of his members who have suffered heartbreak in return for their loyalty and service to the industry for far too long."
Rockefeller is co-sponsoring the new Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act to hold employers accountable for commitments made to their workers.
"I will never stop pushing for a legal system that considers workers and employers on a level playing field," Rockefeller said.
Bennett K. Hatfield, Patriot Coal's president and CEO, said that the agreement should help the company emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the year.
"Ratification of these agreements provides labor stability and ensures cost savings essential to Patriot's plan of reorganization," Hatfield said.
Sen. Joe Manchin said that Patriot and the union should both be commended for the compromise.
"In today's toxic environment, it is easy to be against compromise and walk away from negotiations," Manchin said in a statement. "It is encouraging to see our labor and corporate leaders stand up, come together and find a solution."
Rep. David McKinley, who recently introduced the Coal Health care and Pensions Protection Act in the House, had similar thoughts.
"I would like to thank the leadership of Patriot Coal and the UMWA for staying at the negotiating table," McKinley said in a statement. "This agreement will protect thousands of jobs for miners, protect the benefits workers have earned, and act as a strong economic incentive for communities around the Mountain State."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.