A coal company issued hundreds of bad checks to non-union workers. Along with their paychecks bouncing, the company then declared bankruptcy, causing the miners to have to deal with sudden job losses along with their overdrawn bank accounts. While the miners are demanding back pay, some of them took additional action, blocking a train filled with $1 million in coal.
The Harlan County, Kentucky, miners began protesting near the town of Cumberland last Monday, according to a report by the Daily Wire. Six of the out-of-work miners gathered along a section of the railroad tracks, blocking a train that was carrying $1 million in coal owned by Blackjewel LLC, their former employer.
Last week, the encampment started to grow. The miners were joined by politicians, churches, and members of the community, all of whom are supporting the miners’ effort to receive proper pay for their work.
Blackjewel reportedly wrote bad checks to approximately 350 miners in Harlan County.
“We’re not out here trying to get more than what we’ve earned,” said Chris Rowe, one of the miners and part of the first group of protestors.
At one point last week, the miners did briefly withdraw from the tracks to allow the train operator to take its engine. However, about 100 railcars brimming with coal were left behind, remaining on the tracks.
As the locomotive pulled away, miners were chanting, “No pay, no coal.”
On Sunday, one report stated that dozens of the miners “are boarding buses bound for West Virginia,” heading to Blackjewel’s bankruptcy hearing that was scheduled for Monday.
Blackjewel did not secure the miners’ wages with a performance bond, a step that is required under state law. Initially, Blackjewel attempted to get a loan on July 1 to cover the payroll, but it was not approved.
As a result, the checks – which were issued on June 28, just three days before Blackjewel declared bankruptcy – bounced. Banks deducted the money from miners’ accounts, leaving them overdrawn.
A spokesperson for Governor Matt Bevin said that he “remains committed to using every tool available” to assist the miners.
Bevin also posted a video on Facebook, encouraging others to lend a hand.
On Thursday, Blackjewel’s assets were put up for auction. However, it is likely that creditors will be paid before the miners receive any money from the sales.