(LEX 18/LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER) — Coal miners fighting for the wages they've earned continue to be at the center of Kentucky's gubernatorial battle.
On Thursday, gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Andy Beshear blamed Gov. Matt Bevin's administration for not doing enough to protect the miners. On Friday, the governor fired back, saying that a loophole signed by Beshear's father is to blame.
The Harlan County miners began their protest back in July, demanding that Blackjewel pay them for the work they did. Miners, their families, and activists have camped on the train tracks outside of Cumberland, not allowing the coal to leave until they get their pay.
Miners have told LEX 18 that they have been struggling to make ends meet. Some have said are falling behind on their bills, facing decisions such as paying the electric bill to keep the lights on, or paying the car payment to have transportation.
They have taken a stand and said, "No pay, no coal."
It has been weeks since the protest started, and the miners still haven't received their money, and now, Beshear says that about 1,000 other miners are at risk of the same situation.
"It means they could be out of luck and out of money for work that they've worked. It means that we could see Blackjewel situations all across Kentucky," said Beshear.
It comes down to performance bonds, the bonds mining companies are legally required to post if they've been operating in Kentucky for less than five straight years. It is essentially money that covers four weeks work of workers' pay. So Beshear said if the Labor Cabinet made sure Blackjewel put that bond up, the miners would have been paid by now. Beshear said that 30 other mining companies also have not put the bond up, so those workers may be at risk of no money if their company shuts down.
Bevin argues that the reason this is happening is because of Beshear's father, former Governor Steve Beshear.
"His father signed that bill with that loophole that people took advantage of and it will be closed and fixed while I'm governor. People didn't realize it was there, except those taking advantage of it," said Beivn.
LEX 18's Karolina Buczek looked into the 30 mining companies to see which administration they began operating under. Six of the 30 companies were formed when Steve Beshear was governor, 21 formed under Bevin's time in office, and two were formed under neither administration.
Records show that in 2018, lawmakers tried to pass a bill that would no longer require performance bonds, but the bill never got a vote on the house floor. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that officials in Bevin's administration had urged lawmakers to pass the bill.
Today, while answering my Q about performance bonds in KY - Gov. Bevin told me "people didn't realize it was there, except those taking advantage of it."— Karolina Buczek (@Karolina_Buczek) August 30, 2019
In 2018, HB 382, if it had passed, would've gotten rid of the requirement to post the bonds.https://t.co/KOsC1ckBzr pic.twitter.com/qh97n7qBdn