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Kentucky Coal Miners Protest for Backpay and Benefits

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More than 50 coal plants have closed since President Donald Trump was elected.

When five out-of-work coal miners decided to block a coal train in its tracks in Harlan County, Kentucky, early last week, they garnered national attention and renewed the conversation about the demise of the coal industry. Over the course of the week, dozens of other laid-off miners and their supporters joined the makeshift blockade to prevent a delivery of coal from leaving the facilities of their recent employer, Blackjewel LLC.

“No Pay, We Stay,” was scribbled in black marker on a cardboard sign at the protest site. “If they can move that train, they can get us our money,” miner Shane Smith told reporters with the Ohio Valley ReSource. Smith is among roughly 1,100 workers in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia who are collectively owed more than $11 million in backpay and benefits by the coal behemoth that filed for bankruptcy last month. The hectic and abrupt filing left about 1,700 employees (nearly 600 worked at mines in Wyoming) locked out with no notice.

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