HYDEN, Ky. (WYMT) - Update October 8
The United States bankruptcy court for the Southern District of West Virginia issued a mediation order scheduling mediation between Blackjewel and attorney's representing Blackjewel miners for Monday, November 4 at 10 a.m.
The nearly two-month-long Blackjewel protest in Cumberland came to an end last Thursday, but the actions attorneys and lawyers are making in a West Virginia bankruptcy courtroom is far from over.
Monday afternoon WYMT learned the negotiations between Blackjewel and attorney's representing Blackjewel miners had not worked.
Now, the court will intervene with court-ordered mediation between the two parties, a federal magistrate will sit in. The mediation will be private.
There are eight lawyers and attorneys representing the nearly 1,100 former Blackjewel miners in the eastern region, one of them being attorney Ned Pillersdorf.
Late Monday afternoon, Pillersdorf addressed a room of roughly 20 Blackjewel miners and family members in Leslie County about the most recent updates.
"I mean this has gone on too long," he said to the group. Pillersdorf has held meetings like this on an almost weekly basis. He will go live from his personal Facebook in hopes of reaching as many of the 1,100 as possible.
"This has been going on since July and time is the enemy of the Blackjewel miners," he said.
The progress of Blackjewel's bankruptcy case in the courtroom is non-existant. While tied up in negotiations, and now mediation, the case has not progressed.
He is hopeful that a federal magistrate involved will speed up the process. Pillersdorf said he is often successful during mediations, but the Blackjewel case is complex.
"However this is certainly not a typical case. This case has a lot of moving parts, and a lot at stake," he said.
One of the most impactful 'moving parts' is the order by the Department of Labor placing a 'hot goods' order on the coal the miners were blocking in Cumberland.
After 59 days, the miners stopped blocking the 75-cars of coal on the tracks, but the order from the government prevents it from leaving the mine regardless.
Initially, the order helped the miners. It kept more than $1 million in coal from leaving, but now it has become a pivotal negotiating tool in getting the miners paid.
"While we appreciate their effort on behalf of the miners it's had the unintended consequence of bringing the bankruptcy hearing to a screeching halt," Pillersdorf added.
Blackjewel Marketing and Sales wants the coal. They bought it, and will likely negotiate to get the 'hot goods' order lifted so they can complete the sale of it. This will likely be discussed in mediation later this month.
"What comes next? There's no telling," added Pillersdorf. "If there's successful mediation this is over sooner rather than later, the bankruptcy gets resolved, hopefully the mines reopen, the miners go back to work and we get them a compensation package. But you never know, bankruptcy court is not a good place to go if you are a wage earner."
Mediation was originally supposed to begin on October 15 in Charleston, West Virginia. On Tuesday, we learned a judge plans to push it back to the following week or possibly even later in the month.