Archive for September, 2012

RAMPS Supports Union Miners in Their Struggle to Ensure Pensions, Healthcare Benefits

Saturday, September 29th, 2012
posted by fern

RAMPS stands with all of the union members, retirees, and their families who are fighting to make sure that they do not lose vital benefits like health care as Patriot goes through bankruptcy. We Support the UMWA’s  “Fighting for Fairness at Patriot” campaign and believe that Patriot must be held to its promises under the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA).

It’s perfectly clear what Peabody’s intentions were when it spun off all of its eastern unionized mines into Patriot Coal and then saddled the new company with unrealistic legacy costs. Transferred costs included healthcare and pensions for thousands of Patriot retirees, hundreds of millions in black lung and workers compensation liabilities, and liabilities for already closed mines. Patriot also represents Arch’s shed legacy costs because of its purchase of Magnum Coal Company, Arch’s 2005 spin-off.

Although 90% of those receiving these benefits from Patriot never even worked for the company, their healthcare and pensions could still be at risk depending on the requests that Patriot makes in Bankruptcy court. Patriot is now responsible for benefits for three times as many retired workers as the company employs, and though Peabody’s board of directors intentionally created this setup in 2007, Patriot is now trying to argue its way out of its responsibilities in court. The 1974 Pension Plan fund could lose its ability to pay pensions if Patriot, the fund’s second-largest contributor, pulls out. Future pension rights are also at risk.

Fighting for Fairness – Remembering Larry Gibson

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
posted by admin

Mathew Louis-Rosenberg: Fighting for Fairness

I am in mourning for a dear friend and a great teacher to me, Larry Gibson. Since hearing that he had a heart attack up on his beloved Kayford Mountain Sunday, almost everyone I know has been shell-shocked. His decades of uncompromising leadership in the fight against strip mining and his profound effect on thousands of people make it so hard to believe that he is really gone. He was a pillar of strength for so many of us in West Virginia. Larry was more than just an icon or a great speaker. He was a loyal friend, a fierce warrior, and a deeply caring man. He had a bedrock morality. Larry always let you know where you stood. Larry always stood on the side of “his people”, the citizens of the West Virginia coalfields.

The day before he died, I was in a meeting discussing the recent action on Patriot’s Hobet Surface Mine. Larry had recorded a video message for us. He told us once again that we had to find a way to unite the people. He told us that he was planning on going to the UMWA’s Fighting for Fairness at Patriot rally on Tuesday. He wasn’t going to protest against mining or convert anyone. He was going because Patriot trying to take away miners’ pensions and health care is wrong and another attack on his people. He knew it would be dangerous and many people tried to talk him out of it, but he was going to go anyway, because it was the right thing to do. Nobody was surprised. Larry spent his whole life fighting for fairness.

Tar Sands Blockade begins 8-person tree-sit

Monday, September 24th, 2012
posted by admin

Tar Sands Blockade Treesit with banner "You Shall Not Pass"Our friends in Texas have erected a large tree-sit community of eight people with an indefinite amount of supplies to prevent construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline!

“Today I climbed a tree in the path of Keystone XL to demand TransCanada stop construction of this dirty and dangerous pipeline. This pipeline is a disaster for everyone it touches, from the cancer tar sands extraction is causing indigenous communities, to the water poisoned by inevitable tar sands spills, to the landowners whose land has been seized, and to everyone that will be affected by climate change,” said Mary Washington, one of the Tar Sands Blockade members sitting in a tree.

Check out their awesome setup and banner, with a full write-up here.

Larry Gibson 1946 – 2012

Sunday, September 9th, 2012
posted by admin

Larry Gibson, long-time environmental activist, died of a heart attack Sunday, September 10, while working on Kayford Mountain, the family home in Raleigh County which he spent the last decades of his life protecting from the coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal.


Can’t nobody take my pride, can’t nobody hold me down!

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
posted by admin

For the mountains, for the people, FOREVER, Ducky

I’d like to start this piece off by extending a huge and heartfelt thank you to the RAMPS organizers and everybody who has shown me support over the past week.  It’s been a hell of an experience.  I wouldn’t be able to take part in actions like the barge occupation without these support networks.  I’d especially like to thank the people who were present at my status hearing and sentencing, and Ricki and Fern for visiting me in jail.  I am proudly walking free, having been released at approximately 4:20pm on Monday afternoon.  It’s good to be able to walk through the woods, sleep under the stars, and enjoy the finer things in life.

Although I was only in custody for just over 96 hours, I could feel the weight of oppression and repression the whole time.  My heart goes out to all who are subjected to this punitive system, especially those who are jailed with no preparation or against their will.  Punitive justice does not set people on a path of restoration, it simply encourages further repression and serves to uphold the systems of power that are already in place.  My time in prison emphasized this to me as I watched “perpetrators” of victimless crimes become victims themselves…victims of a corrupt medical system that prescribes opiates to coal miners and encourages addiction for pharmaceutical profit, victims of a government that would rather watch these people languish in jail over actually rehabilitating them and putting them on a path to true recovery.  I recognize the privilege that I had in jail, not just as a white, straight, male-bodied and -identified person, but in having such an amazing jail support network backing me up.  Many of the people in my pod were not prepared to spend time in jail and were forced to make choices that deeply affected their personal lives because of these extenuating circumstances.

The days that I spent in jail also reminded me of why I am a part of this fight.  The prosecutor urged my magistrate to impose a sentence that would send a message to myself and my comrades. He believes that we “come to the great state of West Virginia with the sole purpose of breaking [their] laws.”  This is false.  More than that, I feel that my job working with RAMPS is to work with community members who invite us to come here, and to support those whose land and health they pledge to defend.  My sentencing and time served strengthened my resolve to continue working on the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining.  The attempt to silence my voice, and the voices of others who speak out against the blatant destruction of the mountains, streams, communities, and local economies, showed me that the industry and government are scared.  This is the first time that Kanawha County has put an activist in jail under a plea bargain in the history of RAMPS.  Their backs are against the wall, they know that the coal industry is on its way out, and they’re afraid of the future we want to create for ourselves.