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UBB report confirms repressive Massey culture as indifferent to safety

May 19, 2011
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[TRIANGLE, VA] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“While we are still reviewing the full report on the Upper Big Branch disaster issued by the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel, headed by J. Davitt McAteer, I could not help but be struck by several conclusions reached by the panel.

“First, mine management failed to carry out even the most basic functions required of it to keep the mine safe. Proper ventilation was nonexistent, fireboss runs were not made, essential gas detection equipment was not turned on, water sprays on equipment were not properly maintained, coal dust was allowed to accumulate on the floor and the ribs of the mine and required rock dusting to hold down potential explosions was not done.

“These are all things any company that cared about its workers’ safety would not allow to happen. But because of the safety-last culture that has developed at Massey, there was no emphasis on maintaining the mine within even the most basic of safety parameters.

“Secondly, the report details how the culture of intimidation and repression of workers and their voices at work, always so prevalent in a nonunion workplace, was taken to an even greater level at Massey. In the wake of this report, I don’t know how anyone can argue against not just protecting basic rights at work for coal miners but expanding them.

“We in the UMWA hear about these types of conditions all the time from former and current Massey miners. Indeed, one of them testified about the repressive Massey culture before a Senate committee last year. It is somewhat surprising, though heartening, to see a discussion of it in this report. Listening to workers’ voices on the job is always important to safety. Punishing workers for speaking up about safety at Upper Big Branch proved deadly.

“Finally, the report includes troubling findings regarding oversight activities, or lack thereof, by individuals working for the federal and state agencies charged with performing those duties. We will be looking more closely at those issues, as well as all the other issues we have uncovered, as part of our own investigation into this tragedy in our role as miners’ representatives.”

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