For weeks, mates in Kentucky have been fighting a battle with the mine, which owes them their wages. All over America, coal mines go bankrupt. The president of the industry has promised a good future.
Chris Rowe is a miner. He is 35 years old, eleven of whom he worked in the coal mines in southeast Kentucky. Every day he spent ten or more hours in a hot, stuffy tunnel, surrounded by booming machines that ate into the rock. There were weeks when Chris Rowe saw no daylight. He drove into the mountain in the morning when it was still dark. He came out of the mountain in the evening when the sun had already set.
Recently, however, Chris Rowe got a lot of sun. His neck and upper arms, thick and hard like clubs, are burned dark red. For several weeks Rowe no longer digs for coal. Instead, every day he stands on a railway embankment on the edge of the small mining town of Cumberland, demonstrating – a bearded, tattooed and above all very angry man. "Damn hell," he curses, "it's not like we're fighting for something completely crazy here, we worked hard for the shit."
Revolution may be a little overweight to what's happening in Cumberland, Kentucky right now. But it is already a sort of rebellion, arguably the largest and longest workers' protest in the United States for decades. A fight, as the miner Chris Rowe calls it, it certainly is.
With "the shit" Rowe means the well 6000 dollars that the mining company Blackjewel owes him, the reward for four weeks of bone work in the shaft. Rowe is one of about 300 miners who have worked for Blackjewel in Harlan County, the county where Cumberland is located. But in early July, the company filed for bankruptcy. Rowe and the other buddies were taken out of the tunnel in the middle of the day shift and sent home.
The coal industry has been suffering for a long time
That was bitter. And it got worse. The paychecks that the company had issued for the first part of June were not covered. They burst when the miners wanted to deposit them. The checks for the rest of June did not send Blackjewel off. When Rowe went to the bank in early July, his account was suddenly down a thou- sands, he says. So it was for all the miners who were employed at Blackjewel.
Since then, Rowe and his wife Stacy have had to watch their way through. They have a seven-year-old daughter, only two weeks before the bankruptcy they had bought a house. "I used to make $ 1,200 to $ 1,400 a week," says Rowe. "Now I can get $ 500 in unemployment benefits per week, which will still be tax-deductible." The home loan costs $ 750 a month, and the installments for those cars that you do not get stuck in rural Kentucky are $ 550. There is not much left over for the rest of life, for electricity, gas, insurance, telephone, clothing and food. Or for a toy.
That mines go bankrupt is nothing new in Kentucky. The coal industry has been suffering for a long time. But hiring a corporation and letting workers hang with uncovered checks is an "unprecedented mess," says Charles Raleigh, mayor of Cumberland. There are hardly any other jobs in the area, at least not well-paid. And certainly not for people like Rowe, who only have a simple high school diploma. A coal buddy starts with an hourly wage of $ 24, for overtime there are half on top. The next best job is a seller at Walmart. There are eleven dollars an hour. "Much of the income here comes from the mines," says Raleigh.
. (tagsToTranslate) USA (t) Politics (t) Süddeutsche Zeitung