Gerard, whose union represents thousands of hard rock miners in the United States and Canada, said that the disaster “absolutely could have been prevented.” While Massey racked of hundreds of violations and millions in fines, Gerard said the company would rather pay the fines than care about the safety of its workers while noting that CEO Don Blankenship “promotes himself as a unionbuster.”
“I can absolutely say that if these miners were members of a union, they would have been able to refuse unsafe work… and would not have been subjected to that kind of atrocious conditions,” said Gerard. “In some places like in Australia and Canada, this kind of negligence would result in criminal negligence [charges] being brought against the management and the CEO.”
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on The West Virginia Mine Accident
April 06, 2010
The thoughts and prayers of America’s workers are with the families of those lost today at Performance Coal Company’s Upper Big Branch mine. We pray for the safe rescue of those still missing and for the safety of the courageous mine rescue team members.
As a third-generation coal miner, I know too well the dangers these brave men and women face every day as they work to provide for their families. Forty years after the passage of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, mine safety has improved, but mining remains a dangerous occupation. Unfortunately, it has taken tragedies and miners’ deaths to get safety improvements.
However, this incident isn’t just a matter of happenstance, but rather the inevitable result of a profit-driven system and reckless corporate conduct. Many mining companies have given too little attention to safety over the years and too much to the bottom line. Massey Mine, and its CEO, Don Blankenship, have been cited for over 450 safety violations in this mine. Massey paid over $1 million in fines in the past year alone – and has failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more in fines that it is contesting.
UMWA statement on incident at Upper Big Branch mine
date: April 5, 2010
TRIANGLE, VA – United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:
“The hearts and prayers of all UMWA members are with the families of those lost today at Performance Coal Company’s Upper Big Branch mine. We are also praying for the safe rescue of those still missing, and for the safety of the courageous mine rescue team members. They are putting their lives on the line, entering a highly dangerous mine to bring any survivors to safety.
“As a mine operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy, the Upper Big Branch mine is a nonunion mine. Nevertheless, I have dispatched highly trained and skilled UMWA personnel to the immediate vicinity of the mine, and they stand ready to offer any assistance they can to the families and the rescuers at this terrible and anxious time. We are all brothers and sisters in the coalfields at times like this.