ABINGDON, Va. — Coal miners who blocked train tracks in Kentucky demanding to get paid for the coal they mined will benefit from a federal deal with the bankrupt company.
Agreements filed in U.S. District Court this week will pay out nearly $5.5 million in back pay to miners from Blackjewel LLC’s eastern mines. The checks from over the summer bounced when workers tried to cash them, prompting several miners in Kentucky to protest by blocking coal shipments in Harlan County.
The agreement involves a separate entity, Blackjewel Marketing and Sales Holdings, paying the bankrupt company $5.47 million to issue paychecks to employees, the Bristol Herald Courier reported.
Blackjewel owned mines in Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia. Revelation Energy, based in Milton, West Virginia, and its affiliate Blackjewel LLC were owned by philanthropist and executive Jeff Hoops of Milton at the time it sought bankruptcy protection on July 1. As part of a deal to give the companies a $5 million lifeline, a federal judge required that Hoops step down as CEO that same week.
“I feel relieved to finally be getting the pay that I worked for, which is what all of us miners wanted,” former Blackjewel miner Collin Cornette said in a text message to the Associated Press. “The protest made people realize that working Americans — when united — can be a powerful force.”
Cornette, 41, joined the protest on the railroad tracks in Kentucky that lasted about two months. They held signs that said “No Pay, No Coal” and received donations from around the country.Blackjewel agreed to pay its workers following the sale of two mines in Wyoming last week.
“Payroll checks are expected to be issued this week,” Blackjewel attorney Stephen Lerner wrote in a Wednesday email to the Bristol Herald Courier. They will cover unpaid wages earned between June 10 and July 1, according to court documents.
The U.S. Department of Labor had taken steps to prevent Blackjewel from moving thousands of tons of coal. The department alleged the coal violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits the transportation of goods if the workers who produced them had not been paid.