Coal miners block train to fight back against bounced paychecks

A group of suddenly unemployed miners say that they aren't moving from the railroad tracks until they get the paychecks that they are owed.

Coal Miners

A group of angry Kentucky coal miners are protesting after their employer left them in the lurch by blocking the path of a train hauling $1 million worth of coal.

Since last Monday, a group of coal miners have been blocking a section of railroad tracks near Cumberland, Kentucky, to prevent a trail loaded up with approximately $1 million worth of coal from leaving a mine owned by their former employer — Blackjewel LLC.

The protest happened after Blackjewel declared bankruptcy on July 1. The workers were never technically laid off, but they say that their paychecks bounced, they don’t have healthcare, and their 401Ks are deadlocked because of their employment limbo status.

An attorney representing one of the miners says that Blackjewel owes 1,700 miners $5 million in backpay, according to CNN.

Blackjewel is scheduled to auction off assets Thursday night but creditors will likely be paid before former workers.

The protest started with just six miners but now dozens are camped at the railroad tracks, preventing the load of coal from moving. The miners say that they won’t move until they receive the backpay that they are owed. The miners did agree to allow some trains to pass through, but not the coal load.

Though Blackjewel has yet to pay their former workers, there is some good news. The miners camped out on the railroad tracks have raised enough awareness with their actions that the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation announced Monday morning that they would donate $768,00 to a fund for the unpaid workers.

The plight of the unemployed coal miners is of particular interest to members of the trucking community due to the fact that several trucking companies have abruptly closed so far this year, leaving large numbers of workers suddenly jobless. Members of the trucking community, like the coal miners, have also used protest activities to draw attention to their causes, with mixed success.

Coal miners protest for their paychecks in Kentucky after mining company goes bankrupt

COMING UP: Kentucky coal miners in financial turmoil block the tracks of a coal train during their fourth day of protest, demanding back pay from their bankrupted former employer Blackjewel, once the sixth largest coal company in the U.S. — more tonight, 6 p.m. ET

Posted by CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell on Thursday, August 1, 2019