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The Pay Up Peabody Campaign for a Just Transition Fund

2016 | campaign manager 

On April 13th, 2016 Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal corporation, filed for bankruptcy in St. Louis, where its headquarters are located. Peabody was the 51st major United States-based coal corporation to file for bankruptcy, following announcements from Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal in the months prior.

During previous coal corporations bankruptcy procedings, such as Patriot Coal in 2012, the companies and courts have prioritized CEO payouts and payments to hedge funds and big banks, often cutting funds for workers’ pension and healthcare obligations.

Further, the courts fail to recognize many stakeholders impacted by Peabody opperations and the bankruptcy.

In response, a coalition advocated for the courts to create a Just Transition Fund. Rather than executing a formal legal battle, the campain focused on building cross-regional community and promoting stories of stakeholders left out of the bankruptcy negotiations.

The coalition and supporting organizations connected people from accross the country. At events, residents of St. Louis spoke out about adverse health impacts from nearby coal plants and the need to prioritize school funding over subsidizing Peabody’s headquarters. Southern Illinois residents, who live next to Peabody’s mines, spoke to economic and health impacts caused by the extraction process. Diné and Hopi people from around Black Mesa, lead the actions, sharing stories of resistance to Peabody. From 1974 to the present Peabody Energy along with the US federal government has forcibly relocated over 14,000 Diné (Navajo) people from their ancestral homeland and has drastically depleted the Navajo Aquifer, continuing the violent settler colonial project. Diné groups have had a constant demand of reparations from Peabody for the company’s 40 years of cultural genocide on Black Mesa.

Ephemera from the narrative campaign are included below.

partners: Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Native Women’s Care Circle, To’Nizhoni Ani, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Our Power Campaign partners, and Center for Popular Democracy partners among others

St. Louis residents and members of 50+ groups of the Our Power Campaign protest outside of Armstrong Teasdale, calling for a bankruptcy settlement that benefits workers, impacted communities, land and water. Photo by Jun Bae

Diné women hold banner in front of Peabody’s headquarters as demonstrators block street. Photo by June Bae.

Protestors hold up a banner and a sample of contaminated mine water during the bankruptcy hearing in St. Louis’ Eagleton Courthouse.

Video of action in downtown Clayton. Video by Indigenous Environmental Network.

Video of Marshall Johnson speaking at St. Louis’ City Hall during protest on April 19, 2016. Video by Kae Petrin.

The local coalition researched the parties involved in the bankruptcy and built the Who’s who in the Peabody Bankruptcy? LittleSis power-map. The map was used to educate the public about the finacial insititutions and local parties involved in the bankruptcy.

The Pay Up Peabody zine includes the power-map and outlined coalition demands. In addition to use at protests, the zine was used by participants to identify bankruptcy lawyers while they were court watching. Cover by Georgia Mccandlish.

Marshall Johnson and Sheldon Natoni (Black Mesa, AZ) rides on horseback through downtown Clayton onto the steps of Peabody's local counsel in bankruptcy court, Armstrong Teasdale. Photo by Jun Bae.

Four hedge funds turned significant profits via the bankruptcy—meanwhile, communities continue to pay the price for Peabody's operations and legacy costs. Actions and messaging highlighted solidarity with resistance movements, especially in Argentina and Puerto Rico, who are fighting against many of the same firms. Photo by Jun Bae.

Outside Media Coverage

A set of social media memes released on the day Peabody declared bankruptcy directed the environmental organizations to repond with narratives that center the demands of communities most impacted by Peabody. View the meme set HERE.