'I hope we do go back': Pike County miners moving past protest

Published: Jan. 17, 2020 at 4:56 PM EST
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The protest at the railroad track in Blackburn Bottom is over and the men who organized the blockade are trying to move forward.

The men packed up camp Wednesday night when they received their pay, heading into an unsure future. But according to the miners, in their industry, they are used to being unsure.

“You know, this is a dying industry," said miner Brandon Blackburn. "Yeah, it does scare you when you start seeing weeks go by with no pay.”

Blackburn said the coal industry's decline has left miners on edge. So when the company did not pay on time some of its employees feared the worst.

Now that the money has been paid and the blockade is over, the men are wondering what the future looks like. This is why they visited the Pike County Fiscal Court Friday to discuss employment and financial assistant options with the Kentucky Labor Department, the Kentucky Career Center, and Big Sandy Community Action.

The men say they were led to believe they will still be employed when the work at the mine resumes.

“I hope we do go back. I hope we see each other back up on the hill going underground together as brothers," Blackburn said.

He said he and the other protestors were doing what they considered to be the best thing for their families, adding that "family" includes their fellow miners.

"Because, at the end of the day, the man beside you under the hill, that’s the only man you got that’s got your back," Blackburn said.

He said he hates that the protest went as far as it did, but he hopes the men who did not support the blockade will understand if they return to work together.

“It’s supposed to be like a big family and that’s all we was doing it for," Blackburn said. "We was just looking out for what was right for our families and their families too.”

He said he hopes the coal industry will learn from the event.

“We are proud to work in the mines. We like working for the company. All we ask? We just want paid on time," said Blackburn. “I hope that they see that men in Eastern Kentucky that works the minds are not going to stand for this. Not going to work for nothing.”

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