After paying millions in bonuses to management, bankrupt coal company can't afford unionized workers' pension plans

After paying millions in bonuses to management, bankrupt coal company can’t afford unionized workers’ pension plans

A pile of coal

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Bankrupt Montana coal mining company Lighthouse Resources will be allowed to offload $2.7 million of union pension funds to a federally chartered entity, E&E reports.

Lighthouse says it cannot afford to cover the pension plan it promised to its unionized workers under a collective bargaining agreement struck in 2012. The company paid 11 “insiders” a combined $3.3 million, including at least $702,500 in bonuses, in the 12 months before filing for bankruptcy, the Casper Star-Tribune reported earlier this week.

The United Mine Workers of America consented to the plan because it would allow its members to continue performing reclamation work on Lighthouse mines, a UMWA spokesperson told E&E. Clark Williams-Derry, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the Star-Tribune Lighthouse’s claim it couldn’t afford to fulfill its promise to its workers because of cleanup costs was “disingenuous.”

“When Lighthouse says we can’t pay for miners’ retirement because we have to pay for cleanup, it really sets up a false dynamic of the environment versus workers,” Williams-Derry said. “It hides the fact that company executives and insiders have given themselves golden parachutes and paid themselves generous salaries, bonuses and retirement contributions, when they don’t give those same financial benefits to their workers.”

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