For over a week now, some 100 laid-off miners and their families have occupied a railroad track in Kentucky’s Harlan County, blocking a train loaded with coal that the workers dug out of the earth but never got paid for. The miners want their jobs back, if possible—but first of all, they want their wages for the work they already did. Blackjewel LLC abruptly shut down all its mines July 1 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Partway through a shift, workers were told the bad news and sent home. The miners never got their last paycheck. And their second-to-last paycheck, already deposited, disappeared from their bank accounts. The miners also never received any paper notice of their layoff, which proved a bureaucratic obstacle when they filed for unemployment.
Besides the six mines in Harlan County, the bankruptcy closed Blackjewel’s mines in Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, laying off 1,800 miners in all. The stand-off took a tentative step toward resolution Aug. 6 when federal bankruptcy judge signaled approval of Tennessee-based Kopper Glo’s purchase of Blackjewel’s Black Mountain and Lone Mountain mines in Harlan County as part of the bankruptcy case. But another major Kentucky coal producer, Cambrian Coal LLC, also plans to sell off its assets in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case that could impact hundreds of coal miners in Eastern Kentucky. (Labor Notes, Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville Courier-Journal)
Photo: Megan Roark-Halcomb via Labor Notes