Big shocker: Unions improve mine safety

We’re not making it up, people: mineworkers who belong to unions have more freedom to raise safety concerns without fearing retaliation.  That’s according to workers who testified at this week’s congressional hearing on the Upper Big Branch disaster.  As one worker put it, “As a union person we have the right to refuse to do work we think is unsafe,” whereas at a non-union mine like Upper Big Branch, “if you refuse, they tell you to get your bucket and go home.”  And if workers quit because of safety concerns?  They’d be barred from working within a 90-mile radius of a Massey mine.

Chillingly, relatives of the workers killed in the Upper Big Branch disaster testified that their loved ones were forced to keep working, even under what they knew were unsafe conditions.  Edward Dean Jones wanted to quit, but couldn’t, his mother-in-law said:

He also told me that – at least seven times – he was told by Massey supervisors that if he shut down production because of the ventilation problems, he would lose his job,” she said.

Jones needed to keep his job because of his son’s medical needs, and Massey knew that, his mother-in-law said, suggesting the company may have exploited the situation to keep safety concerns quiet.

Workers’ relatives sent faxes to Don Blankenship and told Massey officials they had concerns about ventilation at Upper Big Branch—but nothing was done.

This is why mineworkers—and all of America’s workers need unions: to ensure workers have fair wages, dignity on the job, and most importantly, safety.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 5:33 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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