AGs Beshear, Herring Fight to Get Blackjewel Miners Paid

Attorneys general ask Office of the United States Trustee for immediate payment of all paychecks owed to workers

FRANKFORT, KY. (July 16, 2019) – Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring have jointly asked for “the immediate payment” of all wages owed to Blackjewel employees.

In their joint request to the Office of the United States Trustee, the attorneys general cite the serious and ongoing financial harm experienced by miners in Kentucky and Virginia following Blackjewel’s “haphazard” bankruptcy.

Approximately 600 Kentucky workers and 480 Virginia workers have reportedly missed their paychecks after Blackjewel unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy July 1.

“The failure of Blackjewel to prepare for bankruptcy has created unnecessary chaos for our miners and their families – the uncertainty they have had to face is wrong and it must end,” Beshear said. “My office is using all our powers to seek answers to the complaints we have received regarding clawed back paychecks, bounced checks and child support issues. Now, we are taking action and urging immediate payment to our miners. No Kentuckian should be treated this way for putting in an honest day’s work.”

“It is absolutely outrageous that hundreds of Virginia workers are being forced to overdraft their bank accounts and scramble to make ends meet because Blackjewel couldn’t get its act together,” said Attorney General Herring. “Even more egregious than the missed paychecks are the reports that some employees actually had their wages taken back out after the money had shown up in their accounts. These workers deserve the wages they earned and I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to make sure they get paid. The company should also take care of any negative consequences caused by their recklessness, like overdrafts or late fees.”

The attorneys general make it clear that Blackjewel’s actions will have a significant impact on individual workers and their families, as well as the region as a whole, writing that “as a result of the bounced paychecks, many of the Virginia and Kentucky workers mistakenly overdrew their bank accounts. These workers and their families have been left without funds to meet mortgages, pay utility bills and purchase even basic living necessities. The negative impact only begins with the workers and their families. The failure to pay workers’ wages has rippled through the regional economies, shortchanging area merchants, service providers and other laborers.”

Attorney General Beshear and Attorney General Herring also ask the Office of the United States Trustee to do all it can to ensure that all employees receive the money they are owed, not just those employees who may eventually be called back to work as part of a smaller workforce. “All workers who have labored for the company and are owed back wages should be made whole. And they should be made whole immediately,” they write.

Since Beshear learned of the troubling complaints, he has taken action. On July 5, Beshear instructed his office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed.

Last week, Beshear announced additional action to assist Blackjewel employees, which includes dedicating an investigator to look into complaints related to clawed-back paychecks and concerns related to child support deductions. Beshear’s office has reached out to local county attorneys on these same child support issues.

Beshear also devoted mediators from his office to help employees mitigate debts owed to individuals or businesses as a result of bounced paychecks.  

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.