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David Pratt Jr. and Sr., right and second from right, protest former employer Blackjewel in summer 2019.

‘There’s Going To Be Something Better for Him’: Former Blackjewel Miners Reflect on Changes in Coal Country

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On a blistering August afternoon in Cumberland, Kentucky, David Pratt, Jr. stood in the middle of a two-lane highway, holding a sign that read “COAL MINERS AND TRUCKERS AGAINST CORPORATE AMERICA.” A few yards away, his father, David Pratt Sr., who is graying but still muscular, leaned back in a lawn chair perched precariously on… Read More

Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., KY

More Unpaid Appalachian Miners Stage a Coal Train Blockade

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For the second time since summer, eastern Kentucky coal miners are blockading a railroad track to protest unpaid wages. The new blockade, which was started Monday afternoon by Quest Energy miners, echoes the months-long blockade by Blackjewel coal miners over the summer and speaks to a growing discontent in Appalachian coal country. “It’s hard to go… Read More

The coal power station on the border between WV and PA

2020 Hindsight: The Ohio Valley’s Decade in Data

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The year: 2009. A Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama has just made history upon taking the presidential oath of office. The national economy is at a low point in the Great Recession. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the first NFL team to win six Super Bowls. Ten years later, as 2019 gives way to… Read More

Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse of Coal Miners’ Pensions

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The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon. The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension… Read More

Huntington, West Virginia skyline

Cabell County EMS Workers in Seek to Unionize

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia county’s emergency responders have announced plans to unionize. The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reports dozens of Cabell County EMS employees showed their support for the initiative at a county commission meeting on Thursday. A United Mine Workers of America representative, Floyd Conley, asked commissioners to recognize his organization as their bargaining unit…. Read More

Jacob Dyer at the Coalfield Development Corporation site.

Why Worker Training Programs Alone Won’t Save Coal Country

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Bobby Bowman mined coal in West Virginia for 12 years before his employer shut down. “I don’t think that mine will ever open again,” he said. Bowman lives in Welch, in the south of the state, where he worked at the Pinnacle Mine, which shut down almost exactly one year ago, putting him and about… Read More

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Former Blackjewel Miners End Railroad Blockade In Kentucky

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The nearly two-month blockade of a Kentucky railroad track is coming to an end as unpaid coal miners end their protest in order to take new jobs, start classes, or move away from their coal-dependent communities. When coal company Blackjewel abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, it left some 1100 Appalachian coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia without pay…. Read More

unemployment

Ohio Jobless Rate Increases Slightly from July to August

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased slightly from July to August. State officials on Friday said the unemployment rate was 4.1% in August, compared with 4% the previous month. Ohio’s unemployment rate stood at 4.6% in August 2018. The national rate was 3.7% in August, unchanged from July, and down from… Read More

Near the scene of the miners’ protest in Harlan Co., KY.

Paychecks Cut For Some Blackjewel Miners; Others Still Wait

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West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1. In an agreement reached last week between the Department of Labor and the company, Blackjewel cut paper checks for all owed wages to a few dozen employees working at the… Read More

In this June 6, 2011 photo, this historical marker along W.Va. Route 17 in Blair, W.Va., is the only visible sign of the 1921 battle here between thousands of armed, unionizing coal miners and the thousands of law enforcement officers and security guards hired to defeat them. At least 16 men died on the mountain

On Labor Day, Miners Mark Historic Union March

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Ninety-eight years ago, thousands of pro-union miners marched toward West Virginia’s Logan County, to protest abuses by coal operators in what was then a largely anti-union territory. The marchers were met at Blair Mountain in Logan County by an army of men, fighting on behalf of anti-union mine guards and local law enforcement. The battle… Read More

Ohio State Supreme Court building

Five State Employees File Lawsuit Against State Leaders And Unions

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Five state employees have filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming their rights have been violated by being required to pay union dues. Four employees with the Ohio Department of Transportation and one with the Ohio Department of Public Safety have filed suit against two labor unions, Gov. Mike DeWine and Department of Administrative Services Director Matt Damschroder…. Read More

The Kentucky Statehouse

Kentucky Democratic Lawmakers to Push for Minimum Wage Increase

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Two Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky say they have a proposal that would eventually more than double the state’s minimum wage. Sen. Reggie Thomas of Lexington and Rep. Kathy Hinkle of Louisa say they’ll introduce the measure in the House and Senate during the 2020 session. Their legislation would gradually raise the… Read More

“Bloody Harlan” Revisited: Blackjewel Miners Draw On Labor History While Facing Uncertain Future

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Curtis Cress sat in the gravel beside a railroad track in Harlan County, Kentucky. Tall and thin with a long, black beard, Cress is every bit a coal miner, or, he was until a month ago. “It’s part of my heritage, you know? My dad and papaws had always done it,” he said. “And I’m… Read More

Unions Accuse FirstEnergy Solutions Of Backing Out Of Agreements

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Several unions representing workers at the state’s two nuclear plants are objecting to a new bankruptcy plan by FirstEnergy Solutions, saying the energy generator’s latest filing would not honor union contracts. Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) says many legislators recently voted to bail out FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear plants because they thought they were protecting union jobs. That… Read More

Living Wage: Ohio Valley Workers, Employers React As House Votes For $15 Minimum Wage

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current $7.25 rate, which has not changed in a decade. The bill is unlikely to clear the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he will not take it… Read More

Minimum Wage Hike Would Have Major Effect In Ohio Valley

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A new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would boost the wages of 17 million workers and lift about 1.3 million people out of poverty. But the CBO warns that could also result in more than one million lost jobs and could diminish overall income for others…. Read More

Sen. Sherrod Brown gives his victory speech at the Ohio Democrats 2018 Midterm Election Night Watch Party at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio on November 6, 2018.

Sherrod Brown Pushes Trump Administration On Overtime Pay

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is proposing a bill that would require overtime pay for any salaried worker making less than $51,064, a more than $15,000 increase to the Trump Administration’s proposed threshold. The current overtime salary threshold is set at $23,660, Brown says his plan would make overtime pay available for more than 4.6 million… Read More

A Growing Recovery: Food Service And Farming Jobs Provide A Path Out Of Addiction

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This is the first story in an occasional series exploring the links between addiction recovery and a recovering economy. It’s lunch hour, and Cafe Appalachia is bustling. Located in South Charleston, West Virginia, the former church turned restaurant has a funky, yet calming vibe. Twinkle lights and mismatched dining room sets dot the space. For… Read More