Two state Attorney Generals are calling on a federal agency to ensure coal miners working for a company that recently filed for bankruptcy receive their paychecks.
Approximately 600 Kentucky and 480 Virginia coal miners with Blackjewel LLC, the sixth-largest coal producer in the U.S., said they were sent home and are still waiting to be paid after the company abruptly filed for bankruptcy on July 1.
As many as 200 workers in Harlan County said their most recent checks had bounced without warning.
Kentucky AG Andy Beshear and Virginia AG Mark Herring have jointly filed a request to the Office of the United States Trustee for the 'immediate payment' of all wages owed to the employees.
“The failure of Blackjewel to prepare for bankruptcy has created unnecessary chaos for our miners and their families – the uncertainty they have had to face is wrong and it must end,” Beshear said. “My office is using all our powers to seek answers to the complaints we have received regarding clawed back paychecks, bounced checks and child support issues. Now, we are taking action and urging immediate payment to our miners. No Kentuckian should be treated this way for putting in an honest day’s work.”
“It is absolutely outrageous that hundreds of Virginia workers are being forced to overdraft their bank accounts and scramble to make ends meet because Blackjewel couldn’t get its act together,” said Attorney General Herring. “Even more egregious than the missed paychecks are the reports that some employees actually had their wages taken back out after the money had shown up in their accounts. These workers deserve the wages they earned and I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to make sure they get paid. The company should also take care of any negative consequences caused by their recklessness, like overdrafts or late fees.”
Both AGs have also asked the trustee's office to ensure all employees receive the money they are owed, and not just those who may eventually be called back to work when the company resumes operations with a smaller workforce.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said the Labor Cabinet will investigate the coal mining company, saying the cabinet will look into complaints the company failed to pay employees for time worked.
Beshear said his office has dedicated an investigator to look into complaints related to pay and child support deductions, and has also provided mediators to help employees mitigate debts owed as a result of bounced paychecks.
He said Kentuckians with complaints regarding Blackjewel's bankruptcy should contact his office at (502) 696-5300 and ask to speak with Jan Velez.