Blackjewel hearing continues on Thursday

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Kentucky Department of Labor (DOL) and Blackjewel’s attorneys will head back to the federal bankruptcy court in Charleston, W. Va., Thursday for an evidentiary hearing regarding the “hot goods.” Miners are now in week six of their protest, hoping the court reaches a verdict so they might be able to return to their normal lives.

As the hearing nears, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear reached out through a news release about the situation at hand. According to the release, Blackjewel Mining was not the only company to go without paying their bonds to ensure worker safety. Beshear said as many as 30 mining companies should be have bonds on file, and without them in place, nearly 1,000 miners may lose paychecks if their company goes under in a similar fashion.

Although Beshear said the labor cabinet has failed to enforce the payment of the bonds, he commended the DOL for their work in taking a stand for the miners.

“I appreciate him praising the DOL for filing the ‘hot goods’ pleadings, which are based on the shameful and unlawful way our miners have been shafted,” said the miners’ attorney, Ned Pillersdorf. “I’m disappointed he did not express support for the courageous stand the miners have taken in blocking the tracks to make sure they get compensated for the coal they mined.

“It’s interesting the Bevin administration tried to repeal the law that requires coal companies to post bonds to protect their employees. After they failed to repeal, they simply declined to enforce the law, which is about the same as repealing it.”

Pillersdorf added the miners and their families, who are now in their sixth week of protesting, “are paying the price for the disregard of the law designed to protect them.”

Pillersdorf said the hearing regarding the “hot goods” will continue on Thursday as the bankruptcy judge hears an argument on the deterioration of the coal sitting on the tracks in Cumberland.

“Let there be no misunderstanding. The miners will continue to block the tracks so they coal they mined can’t be moved until they get paid. This has gone on too long,” Pillersdorf said.

There has also been talk of Blackjewel’s attorney seeking money that may be available for the workers through other companies Jeff Hoops, former Blackjewel CEO, owns. This assertion “is pretty vague,” according to Pillersdorf, unsure if the statements are true.

“Just read the infuriating eight-page response of Blackjewel,” Pillersdorf said. “First, they cry crocodile tears for the miners, saying they are actually aware of their hardship, then the rest of their pleading condescendingly mocks our request that the miners be paid – saying our request is unprecedented.

“Of course, abruptly terminating the employment of 1,100 miners and bouncing their checks is also unprecedented. I can understand why a lot of folks don’t like our legal system.”

Although it is unclear which side the federal bankruptcy court judge is leaning toward, the miners say they are not moving until they are paid or forced to leave.