Editorial: WYMT's GM calls Blackjewel situation "shameful"

Published: Jul. 31, 2019 at 8:25 PM EDT
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Our region and its people have a long history of rising to the occasion.

When times are worst, our people are at their best. That's what mountain folk do. We share in the grief, the sorrow and the pain. We support one another with love, compassion and money from our own pockets.

I first learned this as a teenager. The 1977 flood wiped out homes and businesses across this region. I joined others to shovel the mud and debris from my grandparents' home and my friends' homes. People donated food, water and clothing. Our community came together.

Since then, I've seen this countless times. More floods came. Tornadoes left devastation and death. The death of a child. Cancer claiming another loved one. A police officer killed in the line of duty.

Each time, we came together.

And this week my hometown, Harlan, came together again. Laid-off coal miners and their families, frustrated over not being paid by Blackjewel, blocked a train moving coal from the mine. Coal that could pay the miners the money they are owed.

The peaceful protest is gaining support from across the state and country. More than 1,100 miners in Kentucky, Wyoming, West Virginia and Virginia lost their jobs when the bankrupt company shut down. The miners' paychecks bounced, leaving hundreds overdrawn and needing help.

Imagine working all year in the depths of the earth - back-breaking work to support your family, saving for a vacation, back-to-school clothes, medical bills or the necessities of life - to wake up and find as much as $3,000 or more ripped from your bank account.

It's shameful.

And in my opinion, a full investigation is warranted. Blackjewel has filed bankruptcy, but the court has not ordered the company to pay the miners back. State Representative Adam Bowling is crafting legislation to compel the company to pay the miners' back wages. Let's hope he is successful.

The miners did the work. They earned their wages. They should be paid.

Anything less is shameful.

I'm Neil Middleton, and that's a page from my notebook.