Following media reports uncovering the Labor Cabinet’s failure to enforce a state law that required Blackjewel to post a performance bond that would have covered the cost of payroll for their workers, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today that he is seeking the necessary information to ensure other miners are not at risk.
With no performance bond in place, Blackjewel’s bankruptcy and closure in July left miners and other employees unpaid for work they had already completed. The Labor Cabinet secretary described the failure to the Lexington Herald-Leader, saying “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.”
“Given my concerns with the Labor Cabinet’s response, I have asked my office to seek the information necessary to determine if other workers and their families could be left in the same situation,” Beshear said. “Our Kentucky families deserve to be protected. I am going help make sure no other families are at risk.”
Under Kentucky law, KRS 337.200, employers like Blackjewel and other mining companies that have been doing business in the state for less than five consecutive years are required to furnish a performance bond to the Labor Cabinet to assure the payment of wages if the employer ceases operation. The bond amount should be enough to cover the company’s payroll for four weeks.
To protect miners and their families, Beshear will be reviewing a list of companies that have secured mining permits in Kentucky over the last five years. He will then determine which companies are required to provide a performance bond under KRS 337.200, and then ensure the bonds have been filed with the Labor Cabinet.
Since Beshear learned of the troubling complaints surrounding the closing of the Blackjewel mine in Harlan County, he has taken action. Beshear previously instructed his office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed.
Beshear has dedicated an investigator to look into complaints related to clawed-back paychecks and concerns related to child support deductions and he reached out to local county attorneys on these same child support issues. Mediators from Beshear’s office are available to help employees mitigate debts owed to individuals or businesses as a result of bounced paychecks.
Beshear also joined with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to ask for the immediate payment of all wages owed to Blackjewel employees. In their joint request to the Office of the United States Trustee July 16, the attorneys general cite serious and ongoing financial harm experienced by miners in Kentucky and Virginia following Blackjewel’s haphazard bankruptcy.
Beshear asks anyone with complaints or information related to Blackjewel’s bankruptcy to contact his office at 502-696-5300 and ask to speak with Jan Velez. Beshear’s office will track and route each caller to the appropriate contact.