Hundreds of coal miners from Alabama and West Virginia who are embroiled in a labor dispute with their employer gathered outside BlackRock's headquarters in NYC on Wednesday to gave Larry Fink a piece of their mind.
About 120 supporters descended on BlackRock's midtown offices carrying signs that read "we are one" and chanting together. They spoke out against their treatment by their employer, Warrior Met Coal. Union members are striking for better wages and benefits. During the rally, they were joined by other union workers, including truckers and garbagemen.
BlackRock is listed as Warrior Met's biggest shareholder as of March 31. More than 1,000 miners represented by the United Mine Workers of America have been on strike for almost five months as they battle management for a new collective-bargaining agreement. Now, they're arguing that BlackRock has benefited from their exploitation, so it should step in to help.
Footage of the rally went viral on twitter:
.@SusanSarandon speaks in front of HUNDREDS of striking Alabama #UMWA coal miners protesting outside @blackrock NYC demanding better wages/working conditions.— Jordan (@JordanChariton) July 28, 2021
Blackrock biggest shareholder of workers’ parent company. We’re LIVE exclusively on @TheRokfin https://t.co/QAUNcG47eu pic.twitter.com/npet5eaCwS
Even some Wall Street strategists suspect the workers might have some success.
Walking over there now to explain how index funds work. Wish me luck. https://t.co/g2NPHq0noF— Eric Balchunas (@EricBalchunas) July 28, 2021
Obv kidding. FWIW, they want BlackRock to make management give the workers more money. Worthy protest IMO that asks for BLK to use voting power vs say an ESG gp or UK newspaper upset that index funds own Exxon or other 'bad' companies. pic.twitter.com/hQ8iwayN6l— Eric Balchunas (@EricBalchunas) July 28, 2021
They came to NYC to "follow the money," their union president said in a statement.
"We’re in New York City because we are simply following the money, and demanding that those who created that wealth, the miners, get their fair share of it," said UMWA International President Cecil Roberts in a statement.
Miners agreed to pay and benefits cuts to save jobs when Warrior Met entered bankruptcy in 2016. That agreement ended in 2016, and now that business is on more solid footing, the miners are hoping to make up for what they sacrificed.
Chris Brubaker, 47, who traveled from his home in Jasper, Alabama, to attend the rally, said he took a $6 per hour pay cut in the old contract and Warrior Met is only offering $2 per hour in raises over the next five years.
“All we want is a fair contract,” Brubaker said. “We don’t want no more than what’s owed to us. We go underground in conditions that at any moment can get you killed.”
The labor dispute has taken a toll on Warrior Met, forcing the company to scale back production at one mine while closing another. It also forced the company to halt development of a new project, along with halting stock buybacks.
The company issued a statement to Bloomberg: "We have and will continue to work with the UMWA to reach a fair and reasonable contract that provides our employees with a competitive package while protecting jobs and ensuring the longevity of the company."
The miner's decision to make an end-run around management and go directly to shareholders is just the latest example of an increasingly popular tactic whereby labor activists hope to use media coverage to shame their employer into folding. The most visible example was probably the battle between workers at Amazon's Bessemer, Ala. fulfillment center and Amazon.
In the past, activists have targeted hedge funds and Wall Street titans like Steve Cohen. But as the rise of passive management has transformed BlackRock into an investing titan with trillions of dollars under management, "the peasants are starting to realize that Larry Fink is their true enemy," as one twitter wit quipped.
The peasants are starting to realize that Larry Fink is their true enemy. The system is starting to heal... https://t.co/G22QcAZrHm— Kuppy (@hkuppy) July 28, 2021