Kentucky miners block coal train in protest for pay

"They do hard, dangerous work, and they shouldn’t have to protest just to get the wages that they are owed," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said of the miners.

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By Ben Kesslen

A group of miners in Kentucky are blocking a coal train to protest for what they say are unpaid wages.

The dozen or so miners in the state's eastern Pike County began the protest Monday, saying that they hadn't been paid since December by their employer, Quest Energy.

The miners aren't looking "for a handout," one of the group members, Dalton Russell, told NBC Lexington affiliate WLEX. "We worked for that money and we deserve it."

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Quest Energy disputed that the miners aren't getting wages. "We have always paid everything we ever owe our employees and will continue to do so. There has been times when pay has been delayed, but we have always paid," the company wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

Similarly, Quest's parent company, American Resources Corp., told NBC News in an email Wednesday, "They have been paid."

While some of the miners received at least partial payments on Tuesday, others did not, and the group said it will continue to block the coal car on the railroad tracks until all are paid in full, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The workers say they were inspired by another protest last summer against employer Blackjewel, when where miners in a Harlan County, Kentucky, blocked the coal tracks for two months, WLEX reported. Around 1,100 employees ultimately won over $5 million in back pay as a result of the Blackjewel protest, The New York Times reported.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear weighed in on the latest protest on Tuesday.

"I am going to use every single resource of this government to get them paid," Beshear told the Herald-Leader. "They do hard, dangerous work, and they shouldn’t have to protest just to get the wages that they are owed."

A county official also spoke in favor of the miners.

"The coal company brought this issue on themselves," Pike County Judge Executive Ray Jones said. "There is simply no excuse for failing to timely pay the miners what they were owed."