More pay for Blackjewel coal miners; pension concerns rise

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — Dozens of miners picketed Blackjewel Coal last summer when the company filed for bankruptcy and ceased most operations. Miners were then given their final paychecks which bounced. Some deals for their pay were worked out in federal court, but the case is far from over.

“Several agreements have been entered into in recent weeks. Many of the miners have received their back pay. We’re still fighting and we’ll be in mediation in the coming weeks over benefits and some other matters,” said Sam Petsonk, an attorney for Blackjewel miners.

There is also concern about the future of all miners’ pensions after Murray Energy declared bankruptcy this week. The company has operations in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and several other states. Efforts continue in the U.S. Senate to guarantee all pensions are funded, because more bankruptcies could mean the contributions and benefits run out.

“So we thought we had until 2022. If we hadn’t done something by then, started basically reducing the pensions, to all those recipients. Now it’s going to fast forward to March of 2020. Next March and we’re not going to let that happen,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia.

The United Mine Workers of America estimates there are 100-thousand active or retired miners in the United States.

“Whether it’s coal miner’s pay, health care or pensions, or the state of the industry as a whole, these issues will be important in campaign 2020, especially in the Appalachian states,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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