14 News talks to local coal miners protesting healthcare benefit cuts

Local members of the United Mine Workers of America Union left for Saint Louis on a mission Wednesday morning.

The retired miners want to protest pension and healthcare benefits that are in jeopardy of being cut after Patriot Coal, formerly Peabody filed bankruptcy.

It was still dark out, when about 60 retired miners started boarding the Saint Louis bound bus.

"We want to make our presence known," says Rodger Stanton.

Stanton worked for Peabody for more than 22 years, and says he doesn't want to see his healthcare benefits cut.

"I've had both my knees replaced. I've had shoulder surgeries. When I worked in the mines, I worked hard," he says.

Daniel Pierson put in 39 years underground.

"They're gonna know there is a human factor involved. That it's not just corporate money and big business. There's human lives at stake," says Pierson.

Two weeks ago a similar protest took place, 10 demonstrators were taken to jail.  That's a thought that doesn't frighten Staton.

"No, uh uh. It's so important to me if they put me in jail, so what," says Stanton. "I hope to tell them that Patriot Coal or Peabody Coal, depending on who fired us, this is a set up deal that they'd done to try and get out of their obligations to miners."

Peabody Energy released this following statement:

"The UMWA is fully aware that this is a matter solely between the union and Patriot Coal, and the proper process for deciding such issues is through the bankruptcy court. The UMWA retirees in question all worked for companies that are part of Patriot Coal. Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so.

Patriot's launch only occurred after the UMWA signed off on the retiree benefit payment structure with which Patriot started as an independent company. In 2011, Patriot and the UMWA renegotiated a collective bargaining agreement and chose not to change this benefits structure.

Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago; its market value more than quadrupled in less than a year.

After Patriot became independent and before its bankruptcy, however, Patriot chose to make a major acquisition, went through the global financial crisis and effects of low-cost shale gas on coal demand, experienced EPA regulation that significantly raised environmental compliance costs, and saw metallurgical coal prices decline."

While the court sorts things out, Stanton wants to make sure the coal companies remember the little people.

"I done my part. Now I want Peabody to do their part and do what they said they would do for me," he says.