State bill aims to protect Kentucky coal miners from having wages withheld in case of mine bankruptcy

Republished from WEKU.


House Bill 283 looks to protect coal miners from having their wages withheld in case of a mine bankruptcy. It was filed in Kentucky’s House of Representatives last week.

The bill would require coal companies that have operated for five or less years to verify they have a performance bond in place. Those bonds guarantee workers would be paid up to four weeks of wages if a company shuts down.

Adrielle Camuel, a Democrat representing District 93 in Fayette County, filed the bill. She says it’s a response to the abrupt closure of coal company BlackJewel in 2019.

“What we found from that is the state was not properly monitoring a law that requires new coal companies to have a performance bond in place to pay salaries, if needed,” Camuel said. “And the purpose of 283 is to make sure that that does not happen again.”

That bankruptcy left hundreds of miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming without jobs, paychecks and benefits.

“The BlackJewel miners in central Appalachia were owed almost $12 million, and another $1.2 million in retirement benefits,” Camuel said. “So when you do the math, each miner was out about $4,200.”

Another bill, House Bill 284, was also filed in tandem. If passed, it would complement a federal Department of Labor rule set to take effect in March that would curb the misclassification of employees as independent contractors and protect against wage theft.

“Sometimes it’s accidental. But if we don’t put laws in place to protect our workers, Kentuckians will continue to struggle economically,” Camuel said. “I do think that these two bills, as simple as they are, they move us in the right direction for protecting employees across the state.”

A similar bill also meant to secure wages for coal miners was written in 2021. It was filed by Angie Hatton, former Democratic Representative of District 94. That bill did not make it past committee.

Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.