Blackjewel miners protest after abrupt bankruptcy leaves workers without pay

Miners protest after employer's bankruptcy

Cumberland, Ky. — It's day four of a protest by coal miners in Kentucky. They're blocking a train loaded with coal from leaving the mine after its owner, Blackjewel, the sixth largest coal mining company in the country just two years ago, abruptly filed for bankruptcy last month. Although mining jobs have increased 4% during the Trump administration, more than 35% have been lost in the last decade.

Hundreds of non-union workers were left with no severance or health benefits. The company even stopped payment on the last paychecks.
 
Miner Jeff Willig is now relying on his wife Sarah's income to care for their six kids, including two with autism. 
 
"The next thing I know, my account is $3,000 in the hole and my account is frozen," Willig said.
 
The protest started Monday when Willig and other miners heard trains were about to haul $1 million worth of coal out of the mine where they used to work. He called fellow miners to stop the load in its tracks.
 
"We're not out here trying to get more than what we've earned," said Chris Rowe. "We're just out here to get what we've earned."
 
Day and night, dozens of miners, family and community members have camped out on the railway. The miners eventually agreed to allow the trains through, but without the coal.
 
Former Blackjewel CEO Jeff Hoops has written a letter to employees saying, "I accept responsibility for being unable to lead this company through these difficult times."
 
Willig, who supports President Trump, has tweeted requests for help.

"Do something about this company," he said. "See what they've done to us and what we're going through. Why can't their stuff be frozen?"

Blackjewel's assets are being auctioned off Thursday night, but creditors are likely to be paid first. Everyone in the area insists they're not moving out — until they get their money.