To the editor:
On April 21, the coal operations at Sunnyside mines were idled. The company has filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time of the closure, there were approximately 225 employees on the payroll. These employees were not laid off, just told that the mine was idle. Sick leave and vacation pay benefits owed these employees have been denied them.In August, however, it was rumored that these employees, their families, and retirees no longer had medical benefits. The first notification received by employees that medical benefits had been cut off was received in form letters dated Aug. 30. Retired miners, whose benefits were guaranteed, were also told that funds set aside to pay premiums have been misused and no longer exist.
Millions of dollars worth of medical bills will not be paid for these employees and retirees. Kaiser Coal is liable for these benefits, and because a bankruptcy judge will not release funds to pay insurance premiums, unemployed miners and retirees living on fixed incomes will be forced to pay these bills.
We have checked into several programs the state offers such as food stamps, heat programs, medical assistance, etc. We are turned down because our yearly income is too much, or we have too many assets. We are told we must sell everything we own. That's a difficult thing to do in an area where everyone is unemployed.
These unemployed miners have been seeking employment elsewhere in the state, but are unable to support their families on minimum wage jobs. We feel we have exhausted every option available to us. The only option we see now is to leave the state to pursue employment.
We, the people of Sunnyside and East Carbon, now feel that since we can no longer pay taxes into this state, we have been abandoned and see no relief in sight for our people, schools, businesses, and churches. This not only affects our communities, but our whole county, and eventually the entire state.
It is our belief that our forefathers fought for the freedoms we all have the right to enjoy. But our country is seeing these freedoms denied when a corporation can come into a community and totally destroy a profitable operation, its employees and retirees.
and 322 others