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Beshear: Labor Cabinet finds 1,000 mine employees may be risk

Posted at 3:02 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 19:19:54-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Attorney General Andy Beshear says that the state Labor Cabinet may have failed to secure a single bond for any mining company operating in the state.

According to a press conference held by Beshear, a review conducted by his office found that as many as 30 mining companies should have bonds on file. None of them do.

The investigation was initiated after it was learned that Blackjewel in Harlan County had not secured a bond for their workers. After the mine closed July 1, miners’ paychecks bounced and they have not been paid since.

As Blackjewel closed without the secure bond, they have not been required to pay their employees. In response, many of the former miners are staging a protests by blocking coal trains from passing through the region.

“In response to Blackjewel’s closing, the Labor Cabinet claimed ‘there is no mechanism in law for them to figure out when a new company has opened in the state that is supposed to post a bond,’ but my office was able to determine this with publicly available information within a few days,” Beshear said. “The Labor Cabinet has an absolute duty to enforce the law and has utterly failed to do so. They must begin enforcing these bonds to assure no one ever goes through what the Blackjewel miners are going through.”

Beshear also noted that Bevin's administration urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would eliminate the requirement. The bill did not receive a vote on the floor of the state House after it was released from committee.

The Labor Cabinet released the following statement, "The full force of the Labor Cabinet is presently directed toward the recovery of unpaid wages for the coal miners affected by the Blackjewel bankruptcy. It’s curious that the Attorney General is just now weighing in with his after-the-fact advice. The Labor Cabinet has been working since July 5, when it was first made aware of the failure of Blackjewel to issue earned wages to coal miners, to get the miners paid. Conveniently, the Attorney General fails to mention that two of the five years included in his “look back” period were during his father’s administration. Where was the Attorney General during the first 3.5 years of his own administration, when reporting requirements could have been added to the bonding statute (KRS 337.200) that would have given the Labor Cabinet the tools it needed to identify non-compliance and enforce the requirement? Andy Beshear’s “Monday morning quarterbacking” is typical of him. He casts stones for political purposes, while the Labor Cabinet is on the front lines ensuring that the Blackjewel miners get paid."