A new study shows that unionization
is a sure way to
dramatically lessen the many deaths and serious injuries that have been all too
common in the nation's coal mines.
That 's the unequivocal conclusion
of the independent study
of coal mining between 1993 and 2008 conducted by Stanford law professor Allson
Morantz and funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
There's no doubting it: Workers
in unionized mines are far
less likely to be killed or seriously injured than are workers in non-union
The study indicates that
the number of fatalities in
individual non-union mines can decline by one-third up to nearly three-fourths
and serious injuries decline by as much as one-third if the mines unionize.
It's no coincidence, notes
President Cecil Roberts of the
United Mine Workers Union, that several major mine disasters recently were at
non-union mines. That includes the explosion at Massey Energies' Upper Big
Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners last year, the Crandell
Canyon, Utah, blast that killed nine miners in 2007 and the Sago explosion in
West Virginia in 2006 that killed 12.
"The simple truth," Roberts
that union mines are safer mines, and this study proves that."
He gets ready agreement for
that obvious truth from union
leaders and members at all levels of the labor movement, right up to AFL-CIO
President Richard Trumka. He was a coal miner himself, as were his father and
Trumka says he learned firsthand
"the vital importance
of workers having a voice on the job through their union."
Spreading unionization throughout
the coal mining industry
is a key mission of the United Mine Workers. But though that doubtlessly would
lead to greater coal mine safety, the union's Democratic Party allies must
meanwhile continue pressing for stronger mine safety laws – and stronger enforcement
of the laws.
Those steps and the labor-management
collective bargaining and otherwise that the steps would require would
guarantee that coal mine job safety would continue to improve – perhaps at even
a faster rate than shown by Professor Morantz' study.
Labor, management and government
would be in a far better
position to do much more of what's needed to continue lowering the still high
number of mine worker fatalities.
That's not just a daydream.
Listen to the AFL-CIO's Mike
Hall. He knows. Says Hall: "With all we know today, and all the avenues of
protection available, there is simply no need for even one life to be lost on
One of Congress' most outspoken
and effective safety
advocates, veteran Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, sees the study
as unassailable evidence that unionization leads to greater safety.
Miller, ranking Democrat
on the House Education and
Workforce Committee, is certain that "when workers have a voice in the
mine through their union, they are safer. In union mines, workers are empowered
to point out dangerous conditions to inspectors without fear of retaliation
It clearly demonstrates that
"by giving miners the
support they need to speak out, unions can save miners lives."So can the United
stepped-up campaign to bring more workers under the direct protection of the
union and the union's expanding safety training programs for miners everywhere.
Saving lives. No union could
have a greater purpose.