Bernie Sanders sends pizzas to miners blocking train in Kentucky

Bernie Sanders sends pizzas to miners blocking train in Kentucky

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a symbolic gesture this week, sending pizzas to the miners in Kentucky protesting over their lack of payment from their former employer.

The Vermont senator allegedly phoned a local Pizza Hut in the nearby town of Cumberland, Kentucky on Friday, and sent one pizza to the unpaid miners for every day of their protest. The men and their families have been blocking a train full of over $1 million in coal from Blackjewel.

Kentucky miners protest. Credit: Getty

The demonstration began on July 29, when five miners blocked a train filled with mineral cargo. Now the blockade has turned into a large encampment with many more protestors keeping the trains on the line impeded.

Blackjewel, the two-year-old mining company involved in the financial dispute, owns mines in four states and once employed over a thousand miners in central Appalachia.

However, after the company declared sudden bankruptcy in June, (without filing a mandatory 60-day advance warning or posting a bond) the Miners were left without payment for their prior week's work.

Not only that, but the cheques for the previous fortnight reportedly bounced the next day. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, the company now allegedly owes its workers approximately $4.5 million in back pay to hundreds of its former employees.

Kentucky miners protest. Credit: Getty

Commenting on the situation in a recent interview with National Public Radio, protestor Chris Lewis stated: "It's kind of laid back and peaceful. That's how we kept it this whole protest. We've been peaceful. And, you know, we're all looking after each other just like we would down in the mine. We got each other's back"

He added: "I've had a coal miner in my family from 1700. It runs deep in my blood ... We done our protest peacefully, but in Harlan, Ky., we stand up for what we believe is right. That's been embedded in us from childhood up. You know, coal miners is brotherhoods. And we got a whole lot hanging in the balance here that we won't back down. [sic]"

The protestors have been provided with a number of useful amenities, which seems to suggest that they're not going to leave their spot until the issue is resolved. The encampment now features portable toilets, as well as a generator and a children’s tent with books, toys and portable cribs.

Meanwhile, the local community has done its part to provide for the workers. WYMT reports that a philanthropic organisation gave $2,000 to each miner, and the owner of a local Chinese restaurant has raised thousands of dollars for them. Not only that, but other members of the public have set up market stalls, with all the proceeds going to the miners.

Kentucky miners protest. Credit: Getty

Only time will tell whether the dispute will be settled in a just and fair manner. But it's clear that the protestors aren't going to walk away without some form of recompense.