Coal miners protesting after not being paid for weeks


CUMBERLAND, Ky. (CNN) — A group of miners in Kentucky are blocking a coal shipment after their employer went bankrupt without paying them.

As the stand-off continues, they are asking for support from President Trump, who almost all of them voted for.

Frustration turns to anger on the stretch of track that cuts through Kentucky’s coal country.

It’s where the men and women who work for Blackjewel, the bankrupted coal producer, are fighting for their livelihoods.

Since Monday, miners have refused to clear a path for a train that’s carrying the cargo of coal that they helped dig themselves.

At the core of the protest, according to the miners’ attorney, the nearly $5 million worth of back pay that’s owed to Blackjwewel employees.

“There’s a brotherhood amongst coal miners. United we stand, divided we fall,” said coal miner Joe Bartwatts.

Brandon Pearson is a plant mechanic who hasn’t seen a Blackjewel paycheck in nearly a month and a half.

“If it wasn’t for people giving me money out of the kindness of their hearts, just coming up and saying ‘here, this is for you,’ I don’t know what I’d do,” Pearson said.

There’s no shortage of help coming from neighbors. After all, it’s what makes this part of Appalachia so resilient.

But there seems to be a voice that’s missing among the support, says Pearson.

“We need Donald J. Trump to come to coal country. We voted for that man,” Pearson said. “He said he would be here for coal miners. I’ve seen him with the UNW hat on, I’ve seen him with a hard hat on. He said ‘I’m here for you, we’re going to make America great again, we’re gonna put people back to work again.’ And I’m not blaming this on him. This is not his fault in any shape, form or fashion because I know he’s there for us. We need him here.”

Pearson, and the rest of the miners that CNN spoke to, all agreed the president has provided an economic second wind to their industry. But they fear that Trump’s promise has done very little to help them out of this particular crisis.

“I’ve seen where he was trying to work on getting a young rapper out of jail or prison in another country. I know he has some celebrity influences in that, but we need to be need bailed out. We need something. We just need him to be here for us,” Pearson said.

Blackjewel is yet to respond to CNN’s repeated requests for comment.

An attorney representing some of the miners says legal action is being pursued in an attempt to recover the wages and their benefits.

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