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Life’s still hard in Kentucky

By Phantom On September 2nd, 2019

The life of Appalachian coal miners has always been very hard. Then, now.

There were glimmers of hope in 2016, when politicians spoke of a coal industry revival. It was a false promise. Power companies continue to convert to natural gas. Export prices are low.

The long term indicators are negative.Annual U.S. coal production is expected to drop from 711 million tons to less than 600 million tons during the next five years, said Gregory Marmon, a principal coal analyst at global consulting firm Wood Mackenzie ( the failing Washington Post )

In Cumberland County, the nonunion coal miners at Blackjewel, earned $20 to $30 an hour, very good money there. But Blackjewel declared bankruptcy a few months ago. The last paychecks of the miners either bounced or never arrived.

There is $1 million dollars of already-mined coal at the mine site, but the miners have blockaded the train tracks. They’ll let the coal be hauled out the minute that they get paid.

You’d think that the paychecks of blue collar workers would come first in such a bankruptcy proceeding, but apparently that’s not true.

What’s interesting here is most all these men probably voted for Trump in the election. They’re not exactly a bunch of latte sipping lefties.

Demanding to be paid for your work isn’t such an unfair request.

These guys are standing guard at the mine right now.

God bless these men and their families on this Labor Day.

In Trump Country A Group of Coal Miners Rebel over Lost Jobs and Missed Paychecks

NPR radio broadcast on this story

6 Responses to “Life’s still hard in Kentucky”

  1. Good post. Shameful how these people are treated.

  2. BOLES: These miners have not officially been laid off by Blackjewel. They were just essentially told not to come into work when Blackjewel went bankrupt on July 1. These miners are really frustrated. This is not the way that a coal bankruptcy typically goes. Typically, miners would stay working even if they had a new employer, and they might not even notice a difference. But these guys really haven’t been told what’s going on.

    They’re owed, you know, thousands of dollars in back wages, and they’re hurting. You know, it’s back-to-school season. I’ve spoken to miners who feel that they may not be able to get their kids new shoes or new clothes for the school year and miners who just bought a new house and can’t make payments or who are behind on other expenses that they didn’t expect to be behind on.

    CORNISH: You spoke with Felicia Cress. Her husband worked at a mine in Harlan County. Here she is.

    FELICIA CRESS: It was around the Fourth of July – that Friday. He, you know, got his payday, cashed it, came home on Saturday morning. We were alerted that our bank account was overdrafted $3,000.

    CORNISH: So the company paid workers in bad checks. Am I getting that right? ( the failing NPR )

  3. Good luck to them.

    Workers’ claims always have to be settled first in any bankruptcy. They’s got families to support.

  4. damn good post

  5. off top

    Dorian has sat right dabsmack on the Bahamas and hasn’t moved for almost ten hours now most of that time as a cat5….. it’s being scoured by the hand of god….

  6. They’re still out there.

    A local community nonprofit, With Love from Harlan, has provided overwhelming support, raising tens of thousands of dollars to help the miners. One of its top individual donors has been Joyce Cheng, the owner of Panda Garden, Harlan’s only Chinese restaurant, who emigrated from Fujian when she was fourteen years old and moved to Kentucky with no money when she was twenty-three. Her first donation, of five thousand dollars, was money that she had received as a gift from her husband, which he had saved for the previous two decades, so that Cheng could finally buy herself a diamond wedding ring. She then decided to run fifty miles around the county—she is also an ultra-marathoner—in a miner’s outfit, from business to business and house to house, collecting individual dollars. When I went to see her at her restaurant, she was wearing a shirt that read “Hi, I’m the Bitch OWNER,” and made the four high-school students that she employed stay for an interview, even though their shifts had ended, as she thought they could learn something. “I feel for the miners,” she told me. “People say, ‘Go find another job.’ But it’s hard.” She went on, “You do what you know. I worked in the restaurant. They go and work in coal mine. And they work so hard, night and day, twelve-hour shifts.” She smiled. “Then they come and eat here. I appreciate them so much.”

    ( New Yorker )