There is little doubt that by now everyone in Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming, have heard the name Blackjewel. Sadly, what we now know is that under the cover of darkness, and just a few days before Blackjewel had filed its bankruptcy petition, Blackjewel was already meeting with lawyers to prepare a bankruptcy petition, a petition which would send shock waves across the coal mining industry, especially the coals fields of Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Sadly, as we now know, and although the petition only took several days to prepare, we also know that more than 1,800 loyal employees, loyal miners, continued to show up for work for a company that was getting ready to literally cheat them out of their hard-earned wages, wages which every single miner and their families needed to put food on the table, pay the bills, care for their children, and yes, money which will likely be paid to dozens of attorneys to drive the final stake into the heart of the coal mining industry in Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming.
So, the rhetorical question which necessarily needs to be answered is how did this happen? Well, as we all know, it will likely take years to understand the complex nature of Blackjewel, years which the miners and their families do not have if they are going to survive the next days, weeks, months and years. Sadly, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson ring as true today about Blackjewel as they did when Emerson first said, “In failing circumstances no one can be relied on to keep their integrity.”
Another rhetorical question which necessarily needs to be answered is why was Governor Bevin’s Labor Cabinet asleep at the switch when all this was happening? Why didn’t Secretary Dickerson and his staff know that Blackjewel had not posted a bond to cover at least four weeks of wages as required under Kentucky law. Secretary Dickerson’s lame excuse was that, “There is no mechanism in the law for the Labor Cabinet to figure out when a new company has opened in the state that is supposed to post a bond.” For the miners and their families, Secretary Dickerson’s excuse is not good enough. Maybe Secretary Dickerson and his staff should spend a little more time worrying about those required to post wage bonds, instead of spending hundreds of hours investigating public-school teachers who had the audacity to exercise their right to protest attempts to steal their pensions.
In response to this tragedy, Governor Bevin issued a statement which read, “We will use every available tool within Kentucky’s statutory authority to help our hardworking miners and their families receive financial restitution, ….While this will not likely yield an overnight fix, I am confident that the Labor Cabinet will undertake a thorough investigation and determine the appropriate best path forward.” Yes, and years after Governor Bevin leaves office the Labor Cabinet will probably issue a report which will have cost Kentucky taxpayers thousands of dollars, a report which will do nothing more than whitewash the failure of the Labor Cabinet to understand its responsibilities, a report which will point a finger of blame at someone else.
What we do know is that the after the fact excuses, and simple one-liners from Frankfort politicians, will not do one thing to restore the wages of Kentucky’s miners. What we do know is that the summer will pass, and the fall election will be over long before Frankfort will lift a finger to assist the miners and their families. And one thing is certain is that regardless of the excuses being offered by Frankfort politicians and their political appointees, what we do know is that without the generosity of Kentuckians, Kentucky’s miners and their families would not have any money to put food on the table, pay their bills, care for their children, or survive the coming months of hardship and uncertainty which we know will result from Blackjewel’s bankruptcy.
So, as I often do, I would invite each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop, a place where generous Kentuckians can meet and shout loudly to all of Kentucky’s miners and their families that we care, that we will not let them or their families down; and while on my imaginary mountaintop, let’s take a moment to visit the gofundme.com page https://www.gofundme.com/f/blackjewel-bankruptcy-victims, a place where we can all open up our wallets and give generously to Kentucky’s miners and their families to see them through the uncertain days ahead.
Oh, and by the way, while the fundraising goal which has been set for the miners from Blackjewel is $25,000, let’s see if we can add another zero to that goal and raise $250,000 or more, money which will tell the world that Kentuckians care.