More than five years after 29 miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., justice was finally served as former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was found criminally guilty for a conspiracy to willfully violate the Mine Safety and Health Act. While the tragedy was the largest loss of life in a mine accident in the United States since 1970, numerous other workers have lost their lives in Massey mines.
After more than 35 years writing for union newspapers, magazines, e-newsletters, fax alerts and blogs, and even sending out a few tweets and texts lately, this is my last—as we used to call it— story. I’m retiring from the AFL-CIO after 26 years.
Once again, a study has shown that unionized coal mines are not only safer places to work than nonunion mines, but that union miners produce more coal. The study, by SNL Energy, found that in 2013 unionized mines in northern and central Appalachia produced about 94,091 tons of coal per injury versus 71,110 in nonunion mines, despite research suggesting that unionized miners are more likely to report injuries that have occurred on the job.
For those of you who have been following the Massey Energy story, the Mine Workers (UMWA) passed along this news yesterday: U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that a federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Donald L. Blankenship, former chief executive officer of Massey Energy Co., with four criminal offenses. The indictment charges Blankenship with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud.
For you labor history buffs, Upworthy has a special treat. As part of the Workonomics series that examines the importance of collective action and economic policy that lifts working people and shines a light on inequality, labor history now has its own miniseries.
This Veterans Day, I’ll be thinking about a conversation I had with Cecil Roberts, president of the Mine Workers (UMWA), when he was in Paducah, Ky., for Labor Day. Roberts, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, says it’s time for unions to take back two big issues the labor haters have hijacked from our movement: “The Bible and patriotism.”
You don't have to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins to know black lung disease when you see it. I know firsthand because I've seen it. I've seen it kill my father, my grandfathers and uncles. They were all coal miners who breathed coal dust for years until their scarred lungs could no longer work and they suffocated.