Coal miners, including those who blocked train, get back pay
Former Blackjewel coal miners, including some in Kentucky who blocked a coal train from moving, were finally paid on Friday after a layoff and months of protests.
Around 1,700 coal miners received their money after a settlement for $5.1 million was reached with Blackjewel Sales and Marketing, according to attorney Joe Childers.
Among those being paid will be 658 of Kentucky’s Blackjewel miners from the Black Mountain and Lone Mountain mines in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevins said in a statement.
Blackjewel suddenly filed for bankruptcy on July 1, leaving workers without pay. Miners blocked the tracks of a coal train in Kentucky after the bankruptcy, furious after being told they wouldn’t get paid for their work. Those protests finally ended in September.
Although their paychecks have been paid out, their benefits have not.
According to reports, the coal miners are from Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia, and the settlement covers back pay from June 10 through July 1.
Former Kentucky mine employee Brandon Pearson told CNN the miners are “relieved” and the money “came right on time with Christmas approaching.”
He added the miners managed to stay afloat with “the community pulling together to fill in the gap for us.”
Many miners have moved on, finding new jobs and even going back to school.
Bevin released a statement after the settlement was announced: “I am grateful that our perseverance has provided welcome and deserving news for the miners and their families. May we always appreciate the hard work of our coal miners, and may we always fight as hard on their behalf as they do to keep the lights on in our communities.”
And Cumberland, Kentucky, Mayor Charles Raleigh is calling this a “great victory” for the miners.
However, miners still haven’t received vacation pay, retirement, and health savings account contributions. These claims were not covered in the settlement, and mediation begins in early November to resolve these issues.
Meanwhile, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky praised the Trump administration.
“The way Blackjewel has treated these miners is shameful, and I applaud the Trump administration and Governor Bevin for going to bat for our miners. Today’s agreement will allow our miners to be paid back for their hard-earned work,” McConnell said.
CNN has reached out to Blackjewel for comment but has not received a statement yet.
Meanwhile, data from the U.S Energy Information Administration and US Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that as the demand for coal has declined in the country, the number of active coal mines has decreased by more than half, from 1,435 mines in 2008 to 671 mines in 2017.
Polo Sandoval, Sarah Jorgensen, and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report