Frustrated Kentucky miners block coal train, say they are owed back pay

KIMPER, Ky. — Miners in eastern Kentucky, frustrated because they have not been paid since mid-December, blocked a train carrying coal in Pike County on Monday.

Two coal miners and their families stood on the tracks leading from Quest Energy, and more joined them Monday night as the protest continued into Tuesday, WYMT reported.

“I’m starving. I about lost everything I own and I’m tired of it,” one miner told the television station. “Somebody’s gotta stand up to these guys and I guess it’s us.”

Kenny Collins said he and another miner, who asked not to be identified, and their wives got to the tracks at Kimper about 2 p.m. Monday and prevented a train from moving a load of coal, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

“They won’t get their coal until we’re paid,” Collins, who operates a shuttle car at the underground mine, told the newspaper.

Miners said there were 120 cars on the train, and 100 held coal they had produced at Quest, the Herald-Leader reported.

Miners told WYMT they had worked since Dec. 16 without pay. After a 17-hour shift, the workers expected a check Friday but it never came, the television station reported.

Miners said they were told to wait until Monday for their wages, but were asked again to wait, WYMT reported.

Collins told the Herald-Leader he was owed more than $3,000 in back pay. About 50 employees are owed for three weeks of work, to the tune of $2,000 to $3,000, the newspaper reported.

In a statement, the American Resource Corporation, which owns Quest Energy, disputed the miners’ claims.

“Some of the employees are behind eight days and some one day on their payday. They will all be paid as we don’t take this lightly," the statement said. "They have been paid since the 16th, so we are not sure where that number is coming from. We do not work men 17 hours as stated. We work a very normal mining schedule. We value the employees greatly for their work and their future work.”

The company said it faces "challenging markets" but is working to ensure "the longevity of the employment" of its workers, the Herald-Leader reported.

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