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Kentucky Miners Block Coal Train to Demand Back Pay

HARLAN, Ky.—Coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky blocked a railroad track July 29 to prevent a train from carrying coal they mined but didn’t get paid for. The Blackjewel company, which declared bankruptcy July 1 and closed six mines here, either didn’t pay the workers for their last shifts or gave them bad checks. After her husband cashed his last check, miner’s wife Felicia Cress told NPR, “we were alerted that our bank account was over-drafted $3,000.” The occupation began with a few laid-off miners and grew to up to 100 people within three days, with a generator and portable toilets at the site. Blackjewel CEO Jeff Hoops specializes in taking over financially struggling mines but failed to give the laid-off miners notices of the closings, which meant they couldn’t prove they were eligible for unemployment benefits. “I would like to get the money that I’m owed,” miner Cameron Cornett told Labor Notes, “the money that I worked for, and that was taken from me and my family and these other workers.” Cornett, a father of three, said he’s owed almost $4,000. Federal bankruptcy law makes back wages a lower priority than other debts. Read more

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