'Our paychecks bounced': US workers in limbo as coalmines suddenly close




 

On 1 July, Missy Cole was notified by her bank that her husband's most recent paycheck had bounced, leaving their account more than $1,000 in the red. Her husband had worked as a coalminer for nearly three years at one of the eastern Kentucky mines operated by Revelation Energy affiliate Blackjewel mining.

But both companies had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, a financial move that has implications far beyond just laying off staff as the ex-workers now wait for bankruptcy proceedings to play out. Critics say the move is a ploy increasingly used in the struggling industry to avoid paying workers what they are owed.

"A layoff is always expected with miners. It's always in the back of your mind and it's no surprise when it happens in the coal industry. But this is much more than a layoff," Cole told the Guardian.

"We have absolutely no access to our bank accounts. Those accounts are still negative, and falling deeper into the negative daily. We cannot even touch his 401(k) to withdraw money to survive on without the signature of the Blackjewel mining CEO or his personnel."

One of the largest coalmining operators in the United States, Blackjewel abruptly shut its mines after filing for bankruptcy, jeopardizing the jobs of about 1,700 workers in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming.

Workers are still unsure if they will be permitted to return to work and for how long, if they will be paid for bounced checks and what will happen to their health insurance and benefits.

"It's been very hard, not knowing if your going to be able to put food on the table for your three kids," said Mark Turner, a Kentucky miner at a Blackjewel-operated mine. He's unsure how he is going to afford his upcoming house payment, electric bill or buy clothes and supplies for his children with the new school year approaching.

Jimmy Justus, 22, a mine worker for Blackjewel in Virginia, owes his bank more than $1,400 because his last paycheck bounced.

"Now my account has been closed," he said. On 1 July, Justus was sent home under the impression work would restart the next day, but then heard from co-workers the company had filed for bankruptcy. "The day-shift foreman had no intention of telling anyone anything."

Another coal worker in Virginia, Mark Atwell, was on vacation with his family at Dollywood when he discovered his last paycheck had bounced. "I had no money to feed my family or even gas to get back home on," Atwell said, who has three children and a disabled wife.

According to the bankruptcy filing, Blackjewel mining has at least $500m owed in liabilities. A worker in Wyoming has filed a class action lawsuit against the company, which claims the company failed to give employees' proper notice, and wages and benefits earned before and after the bankruptcy filing.

Blackjewel is the third large US coal company to declare bankruptcy since May 2019, despite promises from Donald Trump that he would save the coal industry and its jobs.

Since Trump took office, about 2,000 jobs have been added to the coal industry, which currently employs an estimated 53,000 workers. The industry has shed more than 30,000 jobs in the past decade, driven by automation and changes in the energy industry, as renewable sources recently surpassed coal production for the first time ever in the US, and natural gas production hit a record high in 2018.

Through filing bankruptcies, attorneys who have represented coalminers argue current laws allow operators to avoid obligations they have to workers.

"It is especially egregious where Blackjewel bounces paychecks to the employees. This compounds with the loss of health insurance and other benefits," said Jack Jacobs, an Alabama-based attorney who has represented workers in black lung cases. "The miners work very hard and sacrifice a lot for these operators. Very frustrating to see how their loyalty is repaid."

Attorney Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming condemned the management of Blackjewel by its CEO, Jeff Hoops, who was recently forced to resign.

Hoops did not respond to a request for comment.

Anderson said: "Hoops was buying up distressed assets from bankruptcies and companies trying to offload mines that were no longer economically viable, and basically created a coal company with those assets."

She said several Blackjewel-operated mines in Appalachia racked up various environmental violations and citations as the company operated at a loss and tried to keep costs as low as possible.

She added: "None of these mines were making money and he was paying himself before any of the lenders, and basically running these mines at very low cost."

Because Blackjewel LLC is privately owned, Anderson noted there is less public disclosure into what's going on with the company, leaving many questions unanswered for workers, their communities and if Hoops will be held accountable.

"All the information we're getting is more or less off of social media and other co-workers in other states," said Joe Williamson, a Blackjewel coal worker in Virginia.

Hoops resigned as a condition for a $5m emergency loan, though his multimillion-dollar plans to build a resort in West Virginia will reportedly not be impacted by the bankruptcy. In a letter to workers, Hoops claimed "no one is hurting more than me" as a result of the bankruptcy.

Few workers agree.

"Our paychecks bounced," said Jeffery Cochran, a coalminer in Kentucky who has worked at a Blackjewel-operated mine for nearly four years.

"Some people have been denied unemployment which is owed to us. He didn't pay into it for some people, but yet he can build a $30m resort, and doesn't have to pay us."

A representative for Blackjewel shared a press release issued on 10 July that noted about 140 employees have returned to work, and they would be paid for prior and future work, but did not address bounced checks for employees outside of Wyoming or the fees workers are accruing due to bounced checks and late bill payments.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Trump says the EPA is looking
Trump says the EPA is looking 'very strongly' at 'sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms' because people are flushing their toilets 10 to 15 times

The New York Times reported in December 2017 that Trump "has an odd affinity for showing off bathrooms, including one he renovated near the Oval Office."

4 dead in shooting incident at Pensacola naval base; suspect was Saudi national, officials say
4 dead in shooting incident at Pensacola naval base; suspect was Saudi national, officials say
  • US
  • 2019-12-06 20:51:00Z

Four people are dead including the suspect after an active shooting incident at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, police said. The shooter was identified as Mohammed Alshamrani, a Saudi national and member of the country's air force who was in the U.S. for flight training, law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation told ABC News. Investigators are trying to determine whether the shooting was terror-related, the officials said.

GOP Senator Backs Whistle-Blower Testimony: Impeachment Update
GOP Senator Backs Whistle-Blower Testimony: Impeachment Update
  • World
  • 2019-12-05 18:58:56Z

(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House will move ahead with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and top Republican Doug Collins have both mentioned a hearing next week focusing on the impeachment report's evidence and conclusions, but they didn't provide details.Here are the latest developments:White House Says Democrats Abused Power (12:58 p.m.)White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Democrats in Congress "have clearly abused their power" with what she called an "illegitimate impeachment hoax.""Speaker Pelosi's instruction to advance this impeachment process - one that has...

'No choice but to act': House Speaker Pelosi asks chairmen to pursue articles of impeachment against President Trump

Pelosi's statement came shortly after Trump invited House Democrats to impeach him quickly so the country could "get back to business."

Explainer: How impeachment works and why Trump is unlikely to be removed
Explainer: How impeachment works and why Trump is unlikely to be removed
  • US
  • 2019-12-05 14:57:17Z

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday instructed the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival. What happens next and why Trump is unlikely to be removed from office are both explained here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-24 20:43:37Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin pills 500 mg ? Please help me found
    amoxicillin 500 mg capsule
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-24 23:16:40Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin 500 milligrams ? Please help me found
    amoxicillin pills 500 mg
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-24 23:17:39Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin 500 dosage ? Please help me found amoxicillin 500 mg
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-25 00:40:38Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin 500 mg uses ? Please help me found
    amoxicillin 500 mg price
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-25 00:47:18Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin 500 ? Please help me found
    amoxicillin pills 500 mg
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • Jerrcywem
    (2019-07-25 01:21:20Z)

    Hi where i can buy
    http://amoxicillin500mg.club - amoxicillin 500 mg capsule ? Please help me found
    amoxicillin 500 milligrams
    Thanks!

    REPLY
  • MosesBic
    (2019-07-28 22:25:20Z)

    DennisLef DennisLef
    http://diyiluoli.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=27378
    3249890jk23e455

    REPLY
  • MosesBic
    (2019-07-29 19:37:33Z)

    DennisLef DennisLef
    http://traviet.net/Thread-%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%90%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%A1%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%90
    http://surf.money7777.info/forumpayeer/index.php?id=1191039
    https://community.brainycp.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2227
    https://www.canon-board.info/threads/54803-Joomla-%28darmowy-CMS%29-jako-silnik-dla-portfolio-fotograficznych/page2?p=1395433#post1395433
    fdv3434r34ref232
    https://kol19pl.pl/Forum/profile.php?id=18

    REPLY
  • MosesBic
    (2019-07-29 23:53:01Z)

    DennisLef DennisLef
    http://tullinge.homeserver.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5254
    http://ripgamers.com/viewtopic.php?pid=1415#p1415
    https://www.safesurvival.net/threads/%D7%95%D7%99%D7%90%D7%92%D7%A8%D7%94-%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%A2%D7%93-%D7%94%D7%91%D7%99%D7%AA.2701/
    http://eniyiogretmen.org/showthread.php?tid=202747
    fdv3434r34ref232
    http://www.uaepulse.net/vb/member.php?u=30772

    REPLY
  • MosesBic
    (2019-07-30 04:09:30Z)

    DennisLef DennisLef
    http://theposhmedia.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=787415
    http://jdcalc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=592548
    https://dayfinanceltd.com/mybb/showthread.php?tid=829169
    https://www.materielelectrique.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4129
    fdv3434r34ref232
    https://forum.kgb-hosting.com/member.php?u=47038

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-09 20:03:57Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://forum.ieasytech.com.cn/home.php?mod=space&uid=772
    http://www.ivfuli.com/space-uid-36242.html
    http://themefluent.com/bb/members/axikuw/
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-10 02:02:34Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://bulaevo.skom.kz/index.php/ru/forum/user/6225-yriqesy
    https://www.huurda.nl/huurwoning-forum/User-ivojomyp
    http://gigiro.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=1064
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-10 07:52:29Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://climat-service.ck.ua/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=asijify
    http://xn----etbdeq6aapelidj3b.xn--p1ai/users/onyvoqig
    http://mail.traffic-signs.net/forum/user/3580/
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-10 19:33:57Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://www.etxemoto.com/component/community/iwatehocy/profile.html
    http://w0w0.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=20538
    https://naturoprof.ru/forum.php?PAGE_NAME=profile_view&UID=6136
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-10 22:22:31Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://www.textron-msk.ru/forum/user/764077/
    https://multimediacity.by/forum/user/103912/
    http://xn----7sbbj0a3atfpd.xn--p1ai/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=ufuma
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-11 01:23:22Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://geox-shop.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=ynoseni
    http://mmods.net/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=iwigy
    http://efanyong.net/home.php?mod=space&uid=25624
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-11 10:11:44Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://www.affiliateportal.net/xoops/userinfo.php?uid=34847
    http://www.xingfudgy.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=76995
    http://baths-pig-iron.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=ijegequjy
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-11 13:14:01Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://uvt.kh.ua/forum/user/22603/
    http://www.zhiyin.com.cn/lovebbs/home.php?mod=space&uid=117300
    http://ras-kras.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=ipiqysu
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-11 16:04:30Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://chili-m.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=eturi
    http://cmsthemefinder.com/userinfo.php?uid=8924#
    http://www.growandfun.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=163
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-11 21:51:41Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    http://cdqm.changdejia.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=130
    http://osefc.free.fr/index.php?file=Members&op=detail&autor=asygejaja
    http://seatclub.co.za/scsaforum/profile.php?lookup=15955
    speedtest2019

    REPLY
  • aaosesBic
    (2019-08-12 00:45:35Z)

    AennisLef DennisLef
    https://mskreslo.com/forum/user/3390/
    http://obruchalka-vrn.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=ogyneso
    http://regionstroy21.ru/index.php?subaction=userinfo&user=awuxis
    speedtest2019

    REPLY

Top News: Economy