The United Mine Workers made an appealing case that Patriot Coal should not be allowed to cut the pay and benefits of union miners and retirees to continue to operate.
Patriot Coal, which has already received concessions from non-union employees, said it needed to save $150 million a year in labor costs to survive and preserve more than 4,000 jobs.
A bankruptcy judge ruled for the company this week, saying "concessions are necessary" for the company to continue.
It was a blow to the UMW. But it remains to be seen how bad the damage to union households will be.
The Wall Street Journal ticked off a number of facts about the economic relationship in its story on the judge's ruling:
* The UMW represents about 40 percent of Patriot's active miners. Patriot's most recent proposal would cut the pay of about 1,700 UMW members as well as trim vacation and overtime pay.
The company said its plan would bring union wages, benefits and work rules "to a level more consistent with the regional labor market."
* Union miners, who now pay no premiums for health insurance, would be part of the same health plan as salaried and nonunion employees. It requires workers to pay 10 percent of the cost of a premium.