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.
By Dennis B. Roddy and Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Upper Big Branch coal mine, where an explosion Monday killed 25 miners, has a history of serious violations that at points were five times more extensive than the national average, according to federal records.
The mine in Raleigh County, near Beckley, W.Va., was cited for 458 safety violations last year, with 50 of them listed as unwarrantable failures to comply — citations reserved under federal mining regulations for instances of willful or gross negligence.
Nationwide, an average of 2 percent of safety violations are unwarrantable failures. Slightly more than 10 percent of Upper Big Branch mine’s violations last year were unwarrantable failures.
Cecil-based coal producer Consol Energy Inc. rushed three teams to West Virginia Monday to assist at the mine.
Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship said in a statement at 8:30 p.m. Monday:
“Our prayers go out to the families of the miners. We want to assure the families of all the miners we are taking every action possible to locate and rescue those still missing.”
The Upper Big Branch mine is owned by Massey Energy, a Virginia-based firm that faced a then-record $1.5 million fine after a fire at its Aracoma Coal Mine in Logan County, W.Va., in which two men became lost amid a wash of smoke because of missing safety walls.
In a cynical political maneuver to outflank the Republican oil driller lobby, President Obama has approved offshore drilling for most of the south Atlantic coast. The oil industry claims that drilling is environmentally safe and will help wean the U.S. from foreign oil. Both claims are false. The recoverable reserves from the Atlantic coast would provide only a few days of US oil consumption.
The safety of offshore drilling is a matter of chance regardless of the cautions observed by the workers. The website below documents drilling disasters that have spilled millions of gallons of oil offshore. The offshore Atlantic current flows north, so any accident endangers the entire north Atlantic coast.
“Soooouuuuweee! Yipyipyip!” is not a usual sound you’d expect to hear bouncing of the granite walls of downtown Pittsburgh’s financial district. Farm folks, however, would recognize it immediately as a way to get the hogs scrambling over to the trough to feed.
But that was the point of the April 1 rally called by the area’s AFL-CIO leaders demanding a massive jobs program. They were trying to focus the attention of political leaders on Wall Street and the need to tax its billions, especially given the huge public bailout, to finance a new green manufacturing and clean energy industrial expansion.
“Labor creates all their wealth to begin with,” declared Rev. Ken Love, a Presbyterian minister, to the crowd of about 50 at the City-County Building. He pointed to a large chart showing the billions in profits and bonuses, along with the billions in bailout money, gathered by the largest Wall St investment banks over the past year. “All that wealth came from us, but it’s not being used it our interest. Now’s the time to use it to create new jobs.”