March 7, 2023 - After almost two years, hundreds of striking miners may soon be back on the job. About a thousand miners have been embroiled in a violent and turbulent strike since April 2021.
They say they have mixed feelings about the return to work and the end of one of the longest mining strikes in U.S. history. And while they have won no concessions from Warrior Met Coal so far, they say this is not a surrender.
Shaun Bradley has lost a lot since Warrior Met Coal took over the mine where he worked for 18 years. His annual salary was cut in half. Because of that, he says he lost his home. He said in 2021, when miners went on strike, they wanted to let the company know they were serious and never dreamed it would last so long. Bradley says, “I thought maybe three months, four months, not two years. I never thought I’d be looking for another job again because, you know, I planned on retiring from there.”
Bradley has already taken his drug test and will soon have a take a physical before returning to his job as an electrician at the mine. But he may not be joined by his former co-worker, Chris Brubaker. Brubaker is eager to go back to work but says he and 40 others are blacklisted. They’ve been told they're not welcome back because of allegations of wrongdoing during the often turbulent times on the picket lines.
“There's a handful of us that they just, that they don't want us back. We got to figure out why and how to settle that end.” Brubaker said.
“I'm not very happy about that," Bradley says. "And I think it's just — I’m not going to say political — but, they still have to prove that they did something wrong. And I’m not sure that they did.”
Even though they'll be returning having gained nothing in the two-year strike, they say they are not giving up.
“I don't feel like there's been a surrender," Bradley said. "I think they're going to negotiate a contract that I hope everybody be happy with."
“We're not giving up. We've got to find a better way to do this," Brubaker added. "We can't keep butting heads.”
A United Mine Workers Union representative says they're still working to find out details on why the 41 miners are blacklisted. They also say many of those blacklisted are union leaders.
We received a statement from Warrior Met Coal leaders. It says in part: "We remain steadfast in our commitment to addressing any concerns in a collaborative and respectful manner, with a focus on providing the secure and productive working environment for our employees."
Between drug tests, physicals and training, it'll most likely be a few more weeks before we see any of the striking workers back in the mine.