LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A dozen Quest Energy coal miners and their families began blocking the railroad tracks near Kimper, Kentucky, Jan. 13 to protest the fact they haven’t been paid. They pledge to stay there until Quest, a subsidiary of American Resources Corp., pays them wages for work since Dec. 27.
The protest began when two miners learned that Quest planned to haul coal from one of its mines in Pike County. They stood on the tracks, blocking the 120-car CSX train. By nightfall a dozen miners and some of their wives and children had gathered on the tracks. Neighbors and friends brought firewood, water and food.
“We just want paid, that’s it,” roof bolter Dylan Davidson told the Lexington Herald Leader. “We don’t want to block this train, but it comes to a point where we have to. You go three weeks without a payday, you gonna let that train go through here so they can put the money in their pocket and just say to heck with us? No, they can’t do that.”
Later that day CSX bosses sent a crew to uncouple and take the locomotive, leaving the coal-filled hoppers behind.
The miners are emulating the example set last summer when Blackjewel coal miners camped on rail tracks in Harlan, Kentucky, to protest bankrupt Blackjewel coal company bosses bouncing their last paychecks and then trying to sell the coal they had mined. The two-month encampment on the tracks gained national and worldwide attention and won the workers much of the pay owed them.
Kentucky law requires construction and mining companies in business for less than five years to post a bond adequate to pay workers if the company runs into financial problems. American Resources, like Blackjewel and several dozen other companies, never put up a bond and are in violation of the law.
Company officials told the press the payments were missed due to a “temporary blip” in coal markets and that they intended to pay the miners in full. “I’m tired of it,” miner Dustin Maynard told WYMT-TV. “Somebody’s got to stand up to these guys and I guess it’s us.”
Some miners told WYMT that on Jan. 14 two weeks’ pay had been deposited in their accounts, but more is still owed them and others haven’t received anything, so the protest continued.
“I heard about those miners in Pike County,” Donna Sexton, mother of Chris Sexton, the first Blackjewel miner to occupy the tracks in Harlan last summer, told this worker-correspondent by phone Jan. 14. “It shows that they can stand up and fight back for what they believe in. People work hard to have money in their pocket. They need to get paid. Those companies got the money, but it’s the miners that’s making them rich. We were raised to be decent human beings and stand up for ourselves.”