Kentucky’s attorney general is accusing the state Labor Cabinet of negligence following the bankruptcy of Blackjewel Mining in Harlan County.
After the mine closed July 1, miners’ paychecks bounced and they haven't been paid by the company since. Andy Beshear says other miners face the same risk.
Mining and construction companies doing business in Kentucky for less than five years are required to post performance bonds equal to one month’s payroll. The attorney general says an investigation by his office has found that no mining companies have paid the bonds, putting around 1,000 miners in jeopardy.
In a news conference on Thursday, Beshear accused Labor Secretary David Dickerson of spending the past several months investigating teachers who took sick days to protest at the state Capitol instead of enforcing the rule about coal mines.
“He claimed he had a duty to enforce all labor laws, that he had subpoena powers and other powers that he should use to secure information," Beshear stated. "He did that in an attempt to punish teachers, but he never did it in an attempt to protect miners.”
The labor secretary has described the rule as self-policing and said there’s no mechanism in place for the cabinet to know when a new company has opened in the state that’s supposed to post a bond.
An Eastern Kentucky lawmaker has said he’ll pre-file legislation to close that loophole, but Beshear said his office was able to make the determination with publicly available information.