United Mine Workers files response to coal strike complaint by Patriot coal subsidiary

A Patriot Coal subsidiary used contract workers who violated safety standards at a Marion County mine, endangering union workers, according to court documents the union filed in a dispute with the company.

The subsidiary, Eastern Associated Coal, sued after union workers walked off the job Oct. 17 at the Federal No. 2 mine about 25 miles west of Morgantown. A federal judge ordered the union workers back the mine later that same day.

The union complaint said "there have been numerous safety violations committed by contractors" that "have deprived bargaining unit employees of a safe workplace and resulted in them having a reasonable concern for their safety and well-being."

Using contract workers instead of union workers violates an agreement between Local 1570 and Eastern, according to the complaint.

The allegations were filed by the United Mine Workers of America Local No. 1570 on Monday.

The complaint said grievances were filed with Eastern in December 2013 and this spring but "there have been numerous violations of the settlement agreements."

Monday's complaint asked for Eastern to stop using contractors, and to award damages to Local 1570 for lost work opportunities.

The initial lawsuit by Eastern followed a brief strike that ended when Chief U.S. Judge John Preston Bailey granted a temporary restraining order, sending workers back on the job.

The order was set to expire on Nov. 14. A preliminary injunction hearing set for that day was cancelled.

Eastern has not responded to the union's latest filing.

Phil Smith, of the UMW, says the Federal No. 2 mine employs more than 300 workers.