Patriot Coal was set up to fail. In 2007, it was established as a dumping ground for the health care liabilities of Peabody Energy. A year later, Patriot Coal got loaded down with even more liabilities when it acquired Arch Coal's creation, Magnum Coal. Not surprisingly, Patriot Coal declared bankruptcy when coal prices dropped from historic highs. And now the heist has culminated with Patriot Coal trying to use the bankruptcy process to strip miners, retirees and their families -- most of whom never worked for Patriot Coal -- of their earned benefits.
The most sinister Wall Street double-dealers would be proud. Ultimately, it will be the taxpayers who foot the bill for Patriot Coal's greed that occurred under the guise of a free market system. So much for calling yourself a "patriot."
Yet those who call themselves friends of coal are silent to the tragedy facing the 22,500 Americans who were made promises.
It's time for our political leaders to choose a side. If they are truly friends of coal miners and not just coal operators, they must speak out now and condemn the appalling actions of Patriot Coal. The real friends of coal miners will loudly proclaim their support for the hard-working men and women who are the victims of a system heavily stacked in favor of corporate America.
But so far, the only statewide elected officials who have taken a public stand with the miners are Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is seeking Rockefeller's seat, claims to be a great supporter of coal miners. I call on her to show us what kind of friend she is. It is time for her to stand with miners on this issue now. I urge Rep. David McKinley to join her.
My challenge isn't limited to Republicans. It is time for Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to pick a side as well.
True friends are worth more than gold, the saying goes. But what about coal?
Hall is general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and president of Teamsters Local 175 in South Charleston.