14 April 2010

Coal Mining : Union-Busting and the Massey Disaster

Deaths in West Virginia
Did not have to happen

By Jay D. Jurie / The Rag Blog / April 14, 2010

With the death of 29 coal miners at the Massey Coal-operated Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, the United States has experienced its worst mine disaster in close to 40 years.

It is widely understood the deaths were caused by safety violations that allowed methane gas to build up to explosive levels. What is not so well understood is that this was no "accident" that just "happened" because coal mining is "inherently dangerous."

The explosion was preventable, and was brought about by lesser-known causes: increased demand for coal, and measures taken by mine owners to meet this demand and generate higher profits through cost-cutting and greater productivity.

Chief among those measures has been union-busting. Massey Coal has a long track record in this regard, even though, according to labor writer David Moberg, unionized coal mines have only a quarter to a half as many fatalities as do non-unionized coal mines.

Actively supporting safe working conditions for those who provide our electricity is the best way we have of showing our appreciation.

One important step would be to contact your Congressional delegation and insist they pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and especially its card-check requirement, that would enhance the ability of all employees to form a union.

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