Miners voted 219 to 206 in favor of the UMWA to succeed the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers union, which had represented hourly workers at the mine for several years. The Boilermakers “disclaimed interest” in continuing to serve the mine’s work force, according to the NLRB.
Willow Lake is operated by Peabody’s Big Ridge subsidiary.
Following the election, Peabody filed objections to the election with the NLRB’s regional office in St. Louis and the union lodged unfair labor practice charges against the company.
After reviewing the accusations, Claude “Chip” Harrell, NLRB director in St. Louis, said a decision was made to send both the Peabody and UMWA claims to a formal hearing. “We determined there was reasonable cause to believe they should be set for hearing,” he said. Although a hearing date had not been set by mid-summer, Harrell said it probably would take place in September at a location “closer to the employer’s facility” than St. Louis.
Peabody spokeswoman Megan Gallagher said her company’s complaint “speaks for itself. It states that, during the election campaign, union advocates threatened employees and their families with bodily harm, contributing to an atmosphere of coercion that interfered with employees’ free choice.” Peabody contends “false and fabricated documents were also distributed during the campaign.”
The UMWA claims Peabody warned miners that Willow Lake would be closed if they voted in the mineworkers.
The Willow Lake outcome is considered important to both sides. The UMWA currently represents only one mine in Illinois—Springfield Coal’s Crown III underground operation in Macoupin County. In recent years, the nation’s oldest industrial union has waged an organizing campaign at Peabody mines that failed to bear fruit until the Willow Lake vote.