Coal firms weigh regional talks

A new group, the Unionized Coal Employers Association, claiming as members 35 coal companies with 40,000 miners, will meet here April 22 with the possibility of regional contract negotiations with the striking United Mine Workers on its agenda.

The meeting will be watched closely in the coal industry as a possible step toward a breakup of national coal negotiations between the Bituminous Coal Operators' Association and the union, the Monitor's labor correspondent, Ed Townsend, reports.

Negotiations to end a strike by 160,000 miners, now in its fourth week, were suspended indefinitely before the Easter holidays, with no reported progress. The union said company negotiators have rejected a new union proposal and demanded reconsideration of their former proposal. Jack Perry, president of the union's Charleston-based District 17, said the proposal was "the one that was turned down earlier. We obviously can't recommend it again."

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