September 21, 2019


As coal companies fail, the workers are being left with nothing (MOLLY TAFT, 9/21/19, Co.exist)

If you ask her, Peggy Stanley can give you a rough running tally of the money that Blackjewel Mining owes her husband.

First, there are the paychecks. One was supposed to be sent out mid-July, after the company filed for bankruptcy, but it never came. There's also the one that was sent out in the middle of June but bounced two weeks later when the company ran out of funds, causing the Stanleys' account to be frozen. Peggy estimates those checks amount to around $5,000.

There's also the money in their 401k, which the couple has been unable to access. And then there's the mining equipment. Peggy's husband, John, was on his shift at a mine in western Virginia when he was told to stop working on July 1. He left his supplies--including two pairs of boots, a light, and a hard hat--in his locker, thinking he could come back later to get them.

Since then, the gates have been locked. No employees have been allowed to go in, and Peggy says they were told the $400 worth of supplies in the locker had been stolen.

And for John and Peggy, who are in limbo as they wait for news about John's job, every little bit of money counts right now.

"We're wondering how we will pay the next bill or get food," Peggy said.

The meltdown at Blackjewel, which currently owes millions of dollars to more than 1,000 workers in four different states, shows just how tenuous the coal industry can be for workers.

Six coal companies filed for bankruptcy in the last year, putting workers in dire straits. In 2018, only around 80,000 people nationally were employed at coal mines--the lowest level on record. The collapse of coal threatens not just miners, but their neighbors in mining communities. A recent analysis identified 26 counties so dependent on coal for employment and tax revenue that they risk "fiscal collapse" because of the continuing decline of the industry.

It takes particularly twisted minds to encourage them to stay and wait for the work to come back.

Posted by at September 21, 2019 7:29 AM