Thursday, October 03, 2019

Blackjewel miners get $3.7 million grant to go back to school

Laid-off coal miners who worked for Blackjewel LLC in southeastern Kentucky have been awarded a $3.7 million grant from the federal government to help them train for new jobs.

The money comes from the Department of Labor as a National Dislocated Worker Grant, given to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. "This money will help laid-off miners and their spouses train in a new field. Many of the miners are choosing expedited short term training in jobs such as machinists, linemen, and truckers," Emily Bennett reports for WYMT-TV in eastern Kentucky.

EKCEP Executive Director Jeff Whitehead said many miners are unsure of themselves, but will flourish and do well in second careers if given the opportunity. The program is for any laid-off coal miner, not just the Blackjewel miners. More than 450 Blackjewel miners have enrolled for training with the program and 100 of them have already gone back to school, Bennett reports.

When Blackjewel abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, about 1,800 workers at its mines in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming were left unpaid. On July 29, laid-off Blackjewel miners blocked railroad tracks to keep the company from transporting coal out until it had paid the miners. After nearly two months, the protest ended last week as the last of the miners left the tracks. They still haven't been paid, but the miners said they needed to move on to new jobs or job training, WYMT reports.

A Blackjewel attorney has proposed in West Virginia bankruptcy court a deal that could provide the company with about $5.5 million that it would use to pay its former Kentucky employees. "While the deal has yet to be finalized, officials with the U.S. Department of Labor said during Wednesday’s court hearing that they expect to come to an agreement with Blackjewel as early as next week," Will Wright reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Though the miners are no longer blocking the tracks, the coal train still hasn't moved out because of a court order.

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