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Home / Business / Hundreds of workers left the company after Blackjewel locked out local news

Hundreds of workers left the company after Blackjewel locked out local news

For many of the dozens of Blackjewel LLC employees who arrived at the Gillette office in the Wyoming Workforce Center early Tuesday morning, feelings were uncomfortable.

"Here are people who show all emotions: crazy, happy, sad," said Chad Bonsness, a third-generation miner who had been working in the Eagle Butte Coal Mine north of Gillette for the last two decades.

Bonsness was one of some 580 Campbell County employees who suddenly appeared unemployed on Monday afternoon when Blackjewel abruptly shut down the coal mines of Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr in Campbell County.

The shutdown occurred a few hours after the company filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 1

1, and a few minutes after it had secured a $ 20 million credit facility for emergency funds to continue operations in its 32 properties across the country.

The sudden shutdown was a sad conclusion to a difficult four-day phase for the company. It started when the workers were not paid as promised on Friday. They were paid on Sunday with bank checks and faced with bankruptcy news on Monday.

While many of his Blackjewel neighbors and colleagues were angry and stunned when he filled out unemployment claims on Tuesday, Bonsness said he had no serious feelings.

"I worked there for 20 years and I'm grateful for that," he said. "It's like being with your family (in the mine) because you spend half your life with these guys … I did the job I loved and you can not complain about that."

Although Bonsness in grateful for the past 20 years, he has no illusions that the Blackjewel workers could have difficult times if the company can do it t secure funding and put it back into service

"Yes, it will be difficult "600 people are looking for the same jobs."

Michael Robert and Nancy Reynolds both worked for Blackjewel on the night shift, saying that they were frustrated by the lack of communication that led to some of the employees working in the field (19659002) "That's what kills me about this," said Robert, who was told not to report Monday night shift through a text.

What a lot of people worry about Hendrik, said Reynolds, is how suddenly the shutdown happened. Although there were signs that the company was in trouble, employees were not prepared for how the lock developed.

"It only took me a while to process everything," she said. "The reality is a bit more today. I did not really expect it.

Bankruptcy and Lockout

Blackjewel LLC, based in West Virginia and its President and CEO Jeff Hoops, has been unable to manage approximately $ 500 million in debt and liabilities. On Monday morning, a bankruptcy court in West Virginia filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.

This was the message that greeted miners when they reported to work in the Eagle Butte mine early Monday. The employees were gathered in a meeting, informed about the bankruptcy and dropped off to complete their tasks. A few hours later, they were called back.

"They moved us to another meeting and (a manager) came in and told us," We have no money. The insolvency did not go as planned and we could not pay you, "said one employee who asked not to be identified." We are loading our toolboxes and everything. "

What did not go as planned was that the United Bank of West Virginia denied Blackjewel's $ 20 million request to keep the mines alive, and the company's officials learned of the refusal to file for bankruptcy on the first day when a scheduled trial was called A court clerk said, "Should Blackjewel secure money to cover these operating costs, a new petition could be brought to court."

Houston was contacted on Tuesday morning by the Gillette News Record, saying he had no time to ask questions about the bankruptcy and the shark to answer the question of mine clearance.

"I'm too busy saving those people's jobs," he said.

With bankruptcy in limbo, the jobs of hundreds of families in the area and Campbell County, which owes about $ 37 million, have also been affected by unpaid production taxes.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council, a Sheridan-based conservation organization, has spoken out on Blackjewel LLC and its mixed history in other states.

"We are deeply concerned about the employees of Blackjewel and their benefits, as well as the millions of dollars in delinquent ad valorem taxes," said Joyce Evans, the group's chairperson, in a statement. "In addition, we are concerned about who will continue the recovery efforts in both mines (worth $ 247 million) and whether the financial guarantees will cover the hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery bonds."

Next Steps

While Hoops said the company is trying to get its employees back to work, state and local officials are already planning to handle potentially hundreds of jobless claims and insurance, job hunting and jobless claims Helping other services, said Rick Mansheim, manager of the Gillette Wyoming Workforce Center.

He said the Center in Gillette at 551 Running W Drive will extend its opening hours from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm The rest of the week, then 7am to 7pm. next week.

In addition to extended working hours, Wyoming Workforce Services will be at 14:00 at the Gillette College Technical Education Center. Wednesday and Monday 9 o'clock. Further efforts for a potential job market and safe money for retraining are in the works.

Mansheim said his office learned of the lockout when a woman from one of the mines arrived at about 3:00 pm. Montag said she had just been released and was on her way there.

"He really surprised us," he said. "We had no idea that this would come."

For Bonsness, the situation still feels surreal. The saying that the last one who is going to turn off the light is true, as he and another worker were the last two on Eagle Butte on Monday. They walked around to make sure all the lights and equipment were turned off and properly placed.

Bonsness said he was thoughtful on these rounds.

"The last drive on the road was pretty lonely," he said. "You think you know this could be your last out there."

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