Several hundred miners from Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia traveled to St. Louis Tuesday in an attempt to salvage health care and pension benefits.
The miners are accusing Peabody Energy of manufacturing a bankruptcy to avoid paying the costs.
Members of the United Mine Workers of America were protesting outside of the federal courthouse, inside Patriot Coal, a spinoff of St. Louis-based Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, was filing for bankruptcy.
When Patriot was formed in 2007, it took on the pension and healthcare obligations for some 10,000 retirees, many of whom never worked a day for Patriot Coal.
"My name is Orlis Milton from Greenville, KY, I've been a coal miner for 23 years and three-quarters. All we want is what's coming to us on the retirement and medical care,” Milton said.
Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America, says the whole deal was designed to end up in bankruptcy court.
"So now Patriot is paying the obligations of two of the largest coal companies in the world and people who never worked for Patriot are asking me, how can Patriot going into bankruptcy have anything to do with my healthcare,” Roberts said.
Roberts says the retired miners risk losing their benefits if Patriot asks a bankruptcy judge to release it outstanding debts, a move Peabody Spokesman Vic Svec says Peabody had nothing to do with.
“This is a matter really, that is appropriately decided in the bankruptcy court. It’s between the UMWA and Patriot Coal. Peabody has lived up to its obligations,” Svec said.
Svec said the matter is between the union, Patriot Coal, and a bankruptcy judge-not the court of public opinion.