Kentucky miner strike ends, negotiations underway

Local News

HARLAN, Ky. (WATE) – A lawyer representing 1,100 miners, known collectively as the Central Appalachian Miners, says the strike has ended on the railroad tracks and moved to negotiations.

Kentucky attorney Ned Pillersdorf is part of the legal team representing the miners. He says, as of Thursday, negotiations are ongoing.

Pillserdorf said that if the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the former Blackjewel miners, is not settled by Oct. 1 there will be court ordered mediation set to take place Oct. 1-5.

Pillersdorf said he, and the legal team are working for a symbolic $1 retainer (that Pillersdorf said he returned) are doing “the best we can for these miners.”

The Eastern Kentucky miners haven’t been paid by bankrupt coal operator Blackjewel LLC. Their last paychecks arriving in July. The miners took to the railroad tracks in Harlan to stop coal from moving out of the mine.

“Every one of us has families and kids to take care of, everyone of us wants what we earned,” Chris Rowe, one of the original protesters, told WATE 6 On Your Side in July.

“If it wasn’t for our community there would be so many families right now with nothing.”

Chris’ wife, Stacy, posted an update to Facebook on Thursday sharing an update.

“It got to the point of … there was people coming down here, but they couldn’t stay,” Stacy Rowe in a Facebook live post on Thursday said. “They had other things to do and they couldn’t stay …”

In August, the assets of bankrupt coal operator Blackjewel LLC were put to auction.

A Knoxville-based company says they will purchase mines in Southeast Kentucky and will help compensate employees protesting over unpaid wages.

Knoxville-based Kopper Glo Mining said on Facebook they successfully bid for the Black Mountain and Lone Mountain operations in Harlan and Letcher counties. The company will pay $450,000 of the $2.9 million miners are owed, as well as $550,000 during the next two years.

Attorneys say the miners have priority lien on the $6 million property that should get the money needed to pay back the miners in full.

Pillserdorf said his clients want two things: to clear the way for Kopper Glo, or another company that would be willing to reopen the mines and to be paid the wages they earned.

This news comes as hundreds of Blackjewel miners are still waiting on the company to pay wages it owes them. Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy protection July 1 and suddenly ceased operations in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. Hundreds of employees were sent home and many discovered that their last paychecks had bounced.

In a Facebook post from Kopper Glo Mining, they said the company has a “plan to restart certain operations and is confident this plan will bring jobs back to many of the former Blackjewel employees.”

On Thursday, now nearly three months since the original protest in Harlan, Pillersdorf said negotiations are ongoing.

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