By Arielle Lipan, WVUA 23 Staff

The United Mine Workers of America Union demanded Walter Energy pay for their employees’ healthcare benefits and pensions they say were promised from cradle to grave.

Representatives and union members gathered at a rally following the announcement of the company laying off 129 workers from Jim Walter Resources No. 4 Mine in Brookwood on Oct. 13.

“We’re just trying to show Brookwood that we do exist and that we want to be strong,” said mine worker Eric LaFoy. “You’re looking at a very, very large number of workers out here and retired people who are out here too that worked before us and earned everything they have. Right now the companies are trying to take it away from us and we’re saying not to do it.”

Gary Holley, a retired Jim Walter No. 4 Mine worker, said he worked most of his life in the mines because he was promised healthcare benefits and pensions.

“If I hadn’t had this healthcare from 2012, I’ve had over $2 million worth of bills,” he said. “If I hadn’t had this healthcare, I’d have been gone. There’s no way I could have afforded to pay it.”

In July Walter Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which dictates the company must follow a court-approved rehabilitation plan, and it has laid off more than 300 employees since.

“It’s getting worse. People are fed up and tired of it and we are just not going to take it anymore.” Holley said.

“Having to tell 129 people you don’t work here anymore for right now that hurts,” LaFoy said. “That hurts real bad because I know a lot of those families. When I tried to sleep last night I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell attended and spoke at the rally as a cosponsor of a bill that will ensure mine workers get the benefits and pensions they’ve been promised.

President of the United Mine Workers Union Cecil Roberts spoke as well saying this is just the beginning of them fighting back.

“This is not a left or right issue this is a wrong or right issue here,” he said. “We’re just asking people to do what they said they were going to do, and that’s to take care of these people. These people are 75-80 years of age some people couldn’t even come here today they’re so ill, and I think it’s a travesty in the US of A for something like this to be going on.”

WVUA 23 reached out to Walter Energy for a comment on the rally, but they declined.

Company Spokesman Bill Stanhouse said the layoffs take effect the night of Oct. 14.

Stanhouse said the job cuts are a result of conditions in the coal market necessitating the mine operates at reduced production levels.

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