Citizens United To Reform Bankruptcy Laws Blog

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Horizon Retirees Admitted To UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts Hails Trustees' Vote to Admit Horizon Retirees in UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts hailed today's vote by the UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan trustees to admit retirees from Horizon Natural Resources Inc. and their dependants to the 1993 Benefit Plan, which restored full health care benefits to nearly 2,500 people.

"This victory is the first ray of light these good people have seen in months," Roberts said.

"Their lives have been needlessly and unjustly turned upside down since last August, and this is a first step towards restoring to them the health care benefits that are rightfully theirs."

In August, 2004, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge terminated the health care benefits for about 5,000 active UMWA members, retirees and dependents at Horizon as part of his ruling that liquidated the company's assets. Some 2,500 retirees and dependents were eligible for coverage through the UMWA 1992 Benefit Fund. Health care benefits for the remaining 2,500 have been paid directly by the UMWA for the last six months, however those benefits will expire on April 30.

"Much more needs to be done before benefits are assured for the long term," Roberts said. "The 1993 Fund is already in a precarious financial position, and adding these beneficiaries will only add to the 1993 Fund's problems. Without quick action by CongressCthis yearCthe 1993 Fund will be in serious financial difficulty."

"Congress has the ability to help these people, and there are several ways it can do it," Roberts said. "Which ever way it chooses, Congress must act quickly to do the right thingCthe responsible thingCand give these retirees and their dependents the peace of mind they've earned."

"These people worked hard for 30, 40, even 50 years in the mines, putting their lives on the line every day to provide our nation with the energy it needs, and always believing the promise they were given by Harry Truman in 1946--reaffirmed by two United States presidents and two acts of Congress--that they would have health care when they retired," Roberts said. "A single bankruptcy judge ripped that promise away. It's incumbent on Congress to live up to America's promise to these miners, and do it now."

Unlike the CBF and 1992 Benefit Fund, which are included in the Coal Act and have mandatory employer contribution rates set by congressional statute, the 1993 Fund is solely funded by employer contributions negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. Current contribution rates are inadequate to cover benefits due to the skyrocketing cost of health care. The current contract does not expire until December, 2006.

Monday, April 11, 2005

UMWA Releases Video of Feb. 24 Rally on Massey

Video from the Feb. 24 th UMWA rally at Massey's Mammoth Mines To Protest America's Bankruptcy Laws.The nine people were arrested at the protest rally, including UMWA International President Cecil Roberts.

Click Here To Watch Video (Real Player Format)

Friday, April 08, 2005

WV Legislature passes resolution in support of Reforming Bankruptcy Laws

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts Hails West Virginia Legislature's Passage of Resolution In Support of Horizon Miners

Roberts Calls on Congress to Act Swiftly to Reform Bankruptcy Laws, Strengthen Coal Act

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts praised the West Virginia Legislature's passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 58, saying that, "With this demonstration of its strong support for the active and retired Horizon miners, the Legislature is sending a clear message to Congress that quick action needs to be taken to prevent what happened to these coal miners from happening again to any other coal miners or any other working family anywhere in America."

SCR 58 calls on Congress to investigate the loss of insurance coverage for active and retired coal miners due to Horizon's bankruptcy and determine what changes need to be made to the nation's bankruptcy laws to "ensure that workers' health and pension benefits are protected."

"The UMWA has not wavered in its position that the decision of a single bankruptcy court judge should not be allowed to strip away the health care benefits the Horizon miners and retirees spent their lives working to earn," Roberts said. "It's especially galling that the judge ignored the will of Congress and paid no heed to the obligations Horizon or any successor company has to contribute to retiree health care benefits under the Coal Act. As U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd said so eloquently last week on the floor of the United States Senate, 'One judge overturned a sixty year-old promise that had been codified by the Congress and endorsed by three presidents. It was a disgraceful, shameful act.'"

"The emotional and financial impact on these miners, retirees and their families have been and will continue to be tremendous burdens for them," Roberts said. "The UMWA has helped where we can, especially with respect to providing temporary health care coverage. But it's incumbent upon Congress to act to make sure no other group of workers ever have to suffer like the Horizon miners and their families have."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Horizon Miners affected by bankruptcy ruling receive 30 day health care extension

Horizon Miners Receive Thirty Day Extension For Health Care
More than 5,000 union coal miners and retirees have received a reprieve - albeit only 30 days - in an ongoing struggle to preserve health care benefits that were lost when Horizon Natural Resources filed bankruptcy last August. (MORE >>>)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Website Update

As you may already know, the official Reform Bankruptcy Laws website has been updated. Be sure to check the NEWS ROOM page for the latest news and information in this fight to stop corporate abuse of the federal bankruptcy laws.

This fight has only just begun and proof of that was last week Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) introducing a new bill in the House that if passed would protect coal miners benefits when their employers file bankruptcy. Also Rep. Rahall and Sen. Rockefeller have introduced similiar measures.

WWW.REFORMBANKRUPTCYLAWS.COM

Saturday, March 12, 2005

ROCKEFELLER VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHT FOR WORKERS’ AND RETIREES’ RIGHTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After his amendment to protect the workers and retirees of bankrupt companies fell just short of passing the Senate, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) tonight pledged to continue fighting to make sure that these companies deliver on the promises they have made to their workers and retirees.
“People work their entire lives under the promise that they will receive a pension and health care from their companies,” said Rockefeller, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Health Care. “Sadly we have seen some companies in the last few years use the bankruptcy courts to walk away from these promises.
“Our employees and retirees need better protections, and we will continue to fight to make sure that they receive these protections. Our workers and retirees should have the right to claim their fair share of the remaining assets of a company they helped build.”

“I am disappointed by tonight’s actions, but we have lost just this battle. We will win the war.”
Rockefeller’s amendment would have:

· Ensured Compensation for Retirees Who Lose Health Coverage. If an employer reduces retiree health care benefits as part of a bankruptcy plan, retirees and former workers would be entitled to cash compensation, in addition to the general unsecured claim they receive under current law. The compensation is designed to enable retirees and former workers to purchase comparable health insurance for another 18 months.

· Increased Workers’ Priority Claim Against Company Assets. The amendment would have allowed employees to recover more of the back-pay, vacation time, severance, or benefit payments that the company owes them at the time it declares bankruptcy. Current law grants an employee a priority claim of $4,925 against the company’s assets, but Rockefeller’s amendment would have increased the claim to $15,000.

UMWA Thanks Sen. Specter for efforts

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United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Thanks Sen. Arlen Specter And Other Key U.S. Senators For Trying To Get Coal Act Amendment Attached To Federal Bankruptcy Legislation
Amendment Would Have Clarified Why Coal Act Supersedes Bankruptcy Judge's Decision, While Also Preventing More Coal Operators From Abusing The Bankruptcy Process

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts today praised U.S. Senator Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) effort last night to attach an amendment important to America's coal miners to a broader piece of legislation being debated to overhaul America's bankruptcy laws.

The amendment was modeled after legislation introduced earlier this year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). It clarified how the 1992 Coal Act contained a promise to UMWA coal miners of lifetime health care benefits, and how the legislation was intended to prevent coal operators from being able to walk away from their obligation to pay for their retired miners' health care benefitsBincluding through the bankruptcy process. The need for such an amendment was created in August, 2004, when a federal bankruptcy judge's ruling allowed Horizon Natural Resources to terminate its Coal Act obligations to some 5,000 UMWA active and retired miners and their dependents. The amendment had already received strong support from several other coalfield senators, including Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Barak Obama (D-Ill.).

Unfortunately, however, a few senators refused to allow the amendment on procedural grounds, prompting anger from Roberts and the UMWA.

"The UMWA is extremely frustrated and angered that this very important amendment was prevented from being attached to the federal bankruptcy overhaul," said Roberts. "The language was a natural fit for the bankruptcy legislation and should never have been tossed out for procedural reasons." He continued, "The Coal Act is a federal law, and every U.S. Senator should certainly understand that one judge's decision cannot be allowed to supersede the laws Congress creates. This amendment directly addressed that issue, and it should have been included in the larger bill. I guess some members of Congress just aren't that concerned about workers' issues as they apply to our nation's bankruptcy laws. That concerns UMWA members, and I'm quite sure it will also concern many more American workers."

Roberts thanked Sens. Specter, Rockefeller and all other supporters for their help, promising to continue working with them to get the amendment passed in some way, shape or form.

"This fight is far from over," promised Roberts. "The UMWA will continue to work closely with our friends in Congress to ensure that coal operators can no longer use the nation's bankruptcy courts to break their promises. We also believe this amendment could serve to pave the way to ensuring other working Americans are able to get a fair shake in bankruptcy court."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mine union chief arrested in bankruptcy-law protest

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts was among 10 people arrested yesterday after they blocked a highway during a protest against federal bankruptcy laws.
Traffic was backed up about a half-mile in each direction on U.S. 60 as the protesters sat on the highway while more than 100 others held a rally outside Massey Energy's Mammoth operation in the London area, said Kanawha County Sheriff's Lt. Bryan Stover. All 10 protesters were arrested without incident and were arraigned in magistrate court on a misdemeanor pedestrian violation. They were later released on personal recognizance bonds, Stover said.
In all, about 150 people attended the 90-minute rally, Stover said.
The Mammoth mine formerly was owned by Horizon Natural Resources, which sold it to Massey after declaring bankruptcy.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Kentucky granted a request by Horizon to terminate its contract with the union, allowing the company to drop health-care benefits for thousands of active and retired miners and their dependents.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Northwest Considers Freezing Pension Plan

Story Here>>

More attacks on airline worker's pension plans but, what about a freeze on CEO pay and benefit options??
Let's take a look at Northwest Airlines CEO, Richard H. Anderson, lucrative pay package. I'm sure we will find a way to pay some of Northwest's bills and ease workers's worries.

Richard H. Anderson
CEO
Northwest Airlines Corporation

In 2003, Richard H. Anderson raked in $3,780,167 in total compensation including stock option grants from Northwest Airlines Corporation.

From previous years' stock option grants, the Northwest Airlines Corporation executive cashed out $13,407 in stock option exercises.

And Richard H. Anderson has another $1,632,938 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

How many workers could be supported by Richard H. Anderson's $3,780,167 pay package?

3 Nobel prize winners
11 average university presidents
9 U.S. presidents
16 AFL-CIO presidents
35 Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
148 average workers
352 minimum-wage earners

How long would it take to equal Richard H. Anderson's total compensation for 2003?

A Nobel prize winner would have to work until 2006 A.D.
An average university president would have to work until 2014 A.D.
The President of the United States would have to work until 2012 A.D.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney would have to work until 2019 A.D.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have to work until 2038 A.D.
An average worker would have to work until 2151 A.D.
A minimum-wage earner would have to work until 2355 A.D.


2003 Compensation
Salary $500,000
Bonus $0
Long-Term Incentive Payoffs $0
Restricted Stock Awards $1,905,750
Other Compensation $10,546
Value of Stock Option Grants* $1,363,871
Total 2003 Compensation Plus Stock Option Grants

$3,780,167
Compensation from Prior Stock Option Grants**
Value of Options Exercised in 2003 $13,407
Value of Exercisable Options $0
Value of Unexercisable Options $1,632,938
* Black Scholes present value model as reported in the company's proxy statement.
** Not counted in 2003 compensation totals.
Source: eComp Database - http://www.ecomponline.com

CEO-to-Worker Comparisons
Annual Weekly Daily Hourly Per Minute
Richard H. Anderson $3,780,167 $72,695 $14,539 $1,817 $30
Minimum-Wage Worker $10,712 $206 $41 $5.15 $0.09
Average Worker $25,501 $490 $98 $12.26 $0.20
President of the U.S.A. $400,000 $7,692 $1,538 $192 $3.21


So....I don't see a problem as to a short-term fix for some of Northwest's financial woes. But, will the right-wing bankruptcy courts see it through a worker's eyes??

I doubt it.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Mine Workers back new bankruptcy reform legislation

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Praises Today's Re-Introduction of Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate That Would Prevent More Coal Operators From Terminating Miners' Promised Coal Act Benefits By Declaring Bankruptcy

Legislation Prompted By What Happened last Year in Federal Bankruptcy Court to Thousands of Horizon Natural Resources Coal Miners and Their Dependents

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts is praising today's re-introduction in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate of legislation targeted at preventing coal operators from using federal bankruptcy laws to terminate federally promised lifetime health care benefits to the miners they employ. The legislation was prompted by an Aug. 31 ruling in federal bankruptcy court in Lexington, Ky., that allowed Horizon Natural Resources to terminate the health care benefits of some 2,000 retired miners and their dependents covered under the federal 1992 Coal Act.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) both re-introduced their bills today, as is required when a new session of Congress commences. Each had introduced similar legislation in their respective bodies in November 2004.

"The UMWA is very thankful that our friends in Congress are once again working with us to rectify the travesty of justice that occurred last year in Lexington," said Roberts. "One of the primary reasons Congress passed the Coal Act in 1992 was to prevent coal operators like Horizon from being able to walk away from their obligation to provide lifetime health care benefits to the miners they employed-through the courts, through bankruptcy, or by whatever means. The principal focus of Rep. Rahall's and Sen. Rockefeller's legislation is that bankruptcy law-or any other law for that matter-should not be allowed to supercede the Coal Act. Hopefully, their bills will help confirm Congress's intent to the courts, which would be a huge help to our campaign to prevent any more Horizons."

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), whose congressional district is home to many displaced and wronged Horizon miners and retirees, is already on board as a co-sponsor of the House legislation.

Roberts reminded that the UMWA continues to pay for the health care of all the displaced Horizon miners and that it will do so through March 2005.

"The UMWA is spending millions of dollars to provide our Horizon members with a temporary cushion during this very difficult time," said Roberts. "It is the right thing to do, but the fact of the matter is the Union should have never been put in this position. Congress promised miners lifetime health care benefits-as did Horizon-and it remains up to Congress to see that the funding is there to fulfill its promise."

He continued, "The UMWA is already mobilizing our members for a full-scale grassroots lobbying effort in support of the Rahall/Rockefeller legislation. We intend to remind every member of Congress-new and old, and particularly in America's coalfields-about the promise made to coal miners more than 50 years ago."

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Corporate Crooks and the People They Employ.

Imagine a society ruled by the corporate elite. Labor unions are illegal or non-existent and, as a worker, your working conditions are dictated by a corporate thug. You are at the mercy of someone who has never been in your position and has no respect or understanding of it. You are compensated wages that were based on the mood of the corporate thug after, your rent for your corporately owned house was paid and, your tab at the corporate store was paid. You would like to complain but, there is no one who will listen.

A situation like this has happened in America within the last 100 years. It seems that this could be a future scenario in America if the labor movement is not revitalized to it's full extent. Corporations, and the government they have bought, are assaulting America's workers with full force and, if not to make matters worse, using workers' money to settle debts and pad the wallets of corporate fat cats. Pension money is being stolen by corporations through the federal bankruptcy court system. Workers are losing retirement money, as well as, guaranteed benefits that were part of their retirements. People are having to return to the work force at ages of up to 70 years after, losing what they had worked and planned for, for years. Yet, the supporters of these corporations and the government prefer to live with the status quo, rather than, question the future of these practices.

Pensions, some valued in the billions of dollars, are used by corporations and their executives as personal funds to gamble in the stock market. In the current market coupled with a failing economy and a falling dollar, the benefit to these benefit and pension funds is minimal, if not, destructive. More accountability by the corporations and their executives needs to be put in place so that a more stringent system can implemented to stop the loss of workers money through the actions of greedy corporations and their executives.

Right now, labor unions and the AFL-CIO are considering ways to become a more formidable force with respect to worker's rights. In February the top labor leaders, through the cooperation of their members, will vote on the best way to counter the right-wing assault on America's working people...the people that are the backbone of America's greatness. Please support them.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

D. L. Blankenship: Massey Energy Company CEO and President

Massey Energy Company recently bought Horizon Natural Resources after Horizon filed for bankruptcy on August 31, 2004. Horizon was allowed to void itself of all union contracts, pensions and healthcare payments to it's current employees and worse yet, it's retirees. The retirees are now without pension plans and healthcare that were part of their retirement packages.

In comes Massey Energy company which buys up Horizon and then refuses to re-hire the employees who had worked for Horizon because of union affiliation. But, the purpose of this post is to look at the CEO and President of Massey Energy Company Donald L. Blankenship's wage and benefit package. In doing this, attention will be directed to what the top brass of these companies are doing to the working class in America. Also, the wage and benefit packages of these executives need more scrutiny by federal bankruptcy judges when a company files for bankruptcy as a means of reducing overhead costs and paying debts of a company in financial trouble.

Donald Blankenship CEO and President of Massey Energy company.

D. L. Blankenship
Chairman CEO and President
Massey Energy Company

In 2002, D. L. Blankenship raked in $9,387,522 in total compensation including stock option grants from Massey Energy Company.

From previous years' stock option grants, the Massey Energy Company executive cashed out $2,832,180 in stock option exercises.

And D. L. Blankenship has another $225,500 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

How many workers could be supported by D. L. Blankenship's $9,387,522 pay package?

9 Nobel prize winners
28 average university presidents
23 U.S. presidents
41 AFL-CIO presidents
86 Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
367 average workers
876 minimum-wage earners

How long would it take to equal D. L. Blankenship's total compensation for 2002?

A Nobel prize winner would have to work until 2012 A.D.
An average university president would have to work until 2031 A.D.
The President of the United States would have to work until 2026 A.D.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney would have to work until 2044 A.D.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have to work until 2089 A.D.
An average worker would have to work until 2370 A.D.
A minimum-wage earner would have to work until 2879 A.D.

2002 Compensation
Salary $1,000,000
Bonus $350,000
Long-Term Incentive Payoffs $0
Restricted Stock Awards $2,427,167
Other Compensation $176,553
Value of Stock Option Grants* $5,433,802
Total 2002 Compensation Plus Stock Option Grants $9,387,522


Compensation from Prior Stock Option Grants**
Value of Options Exercised in 2002 $2,832,180
Value of Exercisable Options $0
Value of Unexercisable Options $225,500
* Black Scholes present value model as reported in the company's proxy statement.
** Not counted in 2002 compensation totals.
Source: eComp Database - http://www.ecomponline.com

CEO-to-Worker Comparisons
Annual Weekly Daily Hourly Per Minute
D. L. Blankenship $9,387,522 $180,529 $36,105 $4,513 $75
Minimum-Wage Worker $10,712 $206 $41 $5.15 $0.09
Average Worker $25,501 $490 $98 $12.26 $0.20
President of the U.S.A. $400,000 $7,692 $1,538 $192 $3.21

How Many Years to Equal D. L. Blankenship's 2002 Compensation?
Minimum-Wage Worker 876 years Completion Date 2879 A.D.
Average Worker 368 years Completion Date 2371 A.D.
President of the U.S.A. 46 years Completion Date 2049 A.D.

How Many Workers Equal D. L. Blankenship's Compensation?
Minimum-Wage Worker 876 workers
Average Worker 368 workers
President of the U.S.A. 46 presidents


In 2002, D. L. Blankenship bagged $9,387,522 at Massey Energy Company. Here's what D. L. Blankenship could buy if he went on a shopping spree...

* Health insurance for 4,559 uninsured workers.

* Day care for one year for 2,311 working mothers.

* 357 average workers could upgrade their part-time
jobs with no benefits to full-time jobs with benefits.

* 8,205 workers could be enrolled in pension plans.


It is unnecessary for one individual to make this type of an income when we have a failing economy, unemployment at almost 10% and workers losing healthcare and pension plans on a daily basis. In order to get something done we need to support bills that will be presented in the US Legislature and you can do that by signing the petition of support for those bills here.

Friday, January 07, 2005

David N. Seigel, President and CEO US Airways Group

When a corporation files for bankruptcy, the foremost point in assessing the corporations financial status should be the evaluation of the CEO's compensation plan.
Before employees of a corporation benefits are axed, the CEO compensation structure should be the first source of financial relief.
The US Airways Group President and CEO, David N. Siegel was compensated nearly $9 million in fiscal year 2003. His compensation package provides for some financial relief and, should be cut and the money doled out to creditors. The current method it seems places all of the responsibility on the lower tiered workers, however.
How many workers could be supported by Siegel's pay package? This may surprise you:

8 Nobel prize winners
26 average university presidents
22 U.S. presidents
39 AFL-CIO presidents
83 Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
352 average workers
839 minimum-wage earners

All of these workers could be paid for one year at Siegel's rate of pay!!

What is more surprising is how long it would take these workers to earn in a lifetime the compensation of Siegel's annual income.

A Nobel prize winner would have to work until 2011 A.D.
An average university president would have to work until 2029 A.D.
The President of the United States would have to work until 2025 A.D.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney would have to work until 2042 A.D.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have to work until 2086 A.D.
An average worker would have to work until 2355 A.D.
A minimum-wage earner would have to work until 2842 A.D.

How Many Years to Equal David N. Siegel's 2003 Compensation?

Minimum-Wage Worker 839 years Completion Date 2842 A.D.
Average Worker 352 years Completion Date 2355 A.D.
President of the U.S.A. 44 years Completion Date 2047 A.D.

What leads to gross negligence and waste is the very compensation that is not observed.
We must reform bankruptcy laws now, in order, to protect what we, as workers, have earned so far and what, our retirees are losing everyday.

Another union contract voided by bankruptcy

US court lets US Airways void labor contract, drop pensions

US Airways Group, scrambling to avoid liquidation, said a bankruptcy judge granted its request to void the labor contract between the airline and the union representing its mechanics.

The judge also let US Airways terminate the pension plans covering its flight attendants and mechanics, as well as a frozen plan that covered 28,000 retirees. (MORE >>>)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Welcome

Welcome to the new and improved Citizens United To Reform Bankruptcy Laws Blog.

We have decided to relaunch this blogsite in coordination with the start of our official website www.reformbankruptcylaws.com .

Our blogsite will be a place to for our members to post opinion pieces, news and other information as a supplement to the official website.

We also welcome comments and feedback from those who visit our blog. We want to hear your opinions about this critical issue facing working America.

Hope you enjoy.