Coal Tattoo

Here’s a statement issued this morning by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis:

Few people ever really earn the right to be called a legend; however, Sen. Robert Byrd earned it every day. For decades, the people of the Mountain State knew they had a true friend and someone who would fight for them and their families.

I had the pleasure of working with Sen. Byrd on issues that impacted our nation’s coal miners and their families. As the son of a coal miner, Sen. Byrd understood that we have a moral obligation to protect the men and women who go underground every day to dig the coal that fuels our economy, and to ensure that those men and women return safely to their loved ones after every shift.

He was a compassionate and dedicated public servant who defended the Constitution every day in the Senate. His leadership, patriotism and wisdom will be missed.

Sen. Byrd speaks: ‘My first speech’

This is from Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s autobiography, Child of the Appalachian Coalfields:

During my first term in the legislature, I introduced a bill to liberalize workmen’s compensation payments. Having grown up in a coal miner’s home, I knew the needs of miners, and I knew the time had come to increase workmen’s compensation benefits. Under the provisions of my bill, widows were to be given a ten-dollar increase per month, making the total forty dollars instead of thirty. Dependent children in 1947 were receiving ten dollars monthly until they reached the age of  sixteen.

Under the bill which I introduced, there would be an extension of two years in their payments: They would, therefore, be paid until they became eighteen. In other words, there would be no increase in the monthly amount paid to these children, but they would benefit from the payments two years longer. It was a very moderate bill, but even with such a moderate increase in payments to widows and the extension of two additional years of benefits to dependent children, such legislation faced strong opposition from coal companies and other industries.

I spent several hours preparing my speech on the Workmen’s Compensation Bill, and I then memorized it. The issue here was the human element versus the dollar, I said. “To me, the dollar is secondary; human misery and suffering, and the welfare of helpless, dependent children come first.”

I went on to point out that during the quarter-century since the last increase in payments to widows, industry had made “great gains and increasing profits.” This was all well and good, I said, and I was glad to see a healthy and growing industry, but “when a man makes the supreme investment in laying down his life, then I believe industry owes his wife and dependent children a fair living in return for the priceless treasure they have lost forever.”

Still pursuing the theme, I said, “A man’s stature is not measured by his wealth or his social standing, but by the depth of his character and the kindness shown to others out of his heart. He is measured by the stand he takes on the great moral questions of the day, and to be always found on the right side is within itself a noble achievement.” In saying so, I realized that many of the more seasoned legislators were listening attentively, perhaps our of respect for my newness to the legislative battlefield. While a few might have regarded my words as presumptuous or even grandiloquent, I knew, nevertheless, that my cause was right and just.

Then, referring to the Bible and its teachings, I said, “On this question, I think of the Master who as a young man walked the hills of Judea two thousand years ago; who always went about doing good; healing the lame and the afflicted, restoring sight to the blind, feeding the multitude, and raising the dead to life — whose heart was ever moved with pity and filled with sympathy and compassion for those in extreme distress and suffering. The Master did not think of the cost in monetary terms, but always and only of the cost in human misery.”

Then I mused openly as to what Christ’s words might be to those delegates who sat around me. “My friends, search your hearts and your conscience for the right. Life is but a fleeting moment in the annals of time and eternity, and as we go out, we must go before the great Bar of Justice. We must answer for our actions here and we shall hear the Great Eternal Judge say, ‘the liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.'”

… My bill passed the House that night, but it never became law …

United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts and West Virginia Congressman Nick J. Rahall warned this morning that a crucial UMWA pension plan — covering 120,000 working and retired miners — is at risk of insolvency without some kind of fix.

The fix proposed by Rahall and the union has the support of the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, but it received a cold reception today from the Obama administration during a congressional hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee that Rahall chairs.

You can read all the testimony here, but I’ll try to summarize the situation as best I can, and provide  more detail and context than my post last night alerting readers to today’s hearing.

First, the UMWA was a bit upset with that post last evening, so let’s allow Cecil Roberts some space here to explain why he believes Rahall’s H.R. 5479 is so important, to protect pension benefits provided to UMWA members under what is known as the 1974 Plan:

The retirees and surviving spouses who depend on the 1974 Pension Plan live in all 50 states, but the majority of them still reside in the coal mining states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, Virginia, Alabama, Ohio and Indiana. Many of the retirees are elderly with nearly 40 percent of the retired population over 75 years of age and about 17 percent of the population over 85 years of age. The 1974 Plan provides them with modest but crucial income.  The average pension benefit for a retired miner currently receiving benefits from the 1974 Pension Plan is $590 per month and for a surviving spouse the average benefit is about $304 per month.

In addition, noting the recent mine disasters at Upper Big Branch, Sago and Crandall Canyon, as well as the thousands of deaths from black lung disease, Roberts told lawmakers:

I think any reasonable observer would agree that coal miners work in harsh conditions that endanger their lives in many ways. They should not have to worry about the modest pensions that have been promised them after they retire.

OK … before we move to the details of the legislation, a little history is necessary …

When it passed the 1977 federal strip mining law, Congress created a tax on coal production, meant to raise funds to reclaim coal-mine sites that were abandoned prior to the law’s requirement that operators clean up after they’re done mining.  Folks who have followed the issue know that the Abandoned Mine Land program hasn’t quite lived up to its promise, at least in part because Congress and the Office of Surface Mining have allowed money to be diverted from its primary purpose — cleaning up dangerous coal-mining sites — to other things. We outlined this whole problem a few years ago in a Gazette series, and this story summarizes it pretty clearly.

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Rep. Nick J. Rahall’s House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hear testimony tomorrow morning on a Rahall bill that would allow the transfer of money from the federal Abandoned Mine Land Fund to bail out the troubled United Mine Workers of America pension plan.

Rahall, a longtime friend of the UMWA, quietly introduced the legislation, H.R. 5479, last week. He called it the “Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act of 2010.”

Basically, it would extend the existing practice of transferring money needed for the UMWA’s retiree health-care plan so that AML funds can also be sent to the union’s pension plan. The health-care transfers — the largest of many diversions of AML money for other purposes — have been going on since 1996, as we explained in our 2004 series on the mine cleanup program.

The UMWA pension plan covers about 120,000 current and former UMWA members, and union President Cecil Roberts is scheduled to testify in favor of Rahall’s legislation at tomorrow’s hearing.

Rahall is seeking to protect the pension plan, which lost more than one-fifth of its assets to the financial crisis that began in 2007, and to avoid major labor disruptions that could occur if operators are asked to greatly increase their contributions when the existing UMWA national contract expires at the end of 2011.

Formal order issued to reinstate Massey miner

We’ve reported before (see here and here) on the case of Ricky Lee Campbell, a Massey Energy miner who says the company fired him after he complained about safety conditions at the company’s operations.

This case has been more closely followed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which published Campbell’s initial comments following the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, and by Howard Berkes at National Public Radio (among the few national media still paying much attention to the disaster follow-up stories).

As Berkes reported on Friday, an administrative law judge has ordered that Campbell be temporarily reinstated — and today that judge issued a written ruling on that matter.

In a news release this evening, MSHA outlined the case this way:

Campbell began working for Marfork at Parker Peerless Mine in November 2009. In January 2010, he was transferred to Upper Big Branch Mine, where he worked until late March. Campbell briefly returned to Parker Peerless before starting work at Slip Ridge on April 5, 2010. According to Campbell, he voiced safety concerns about the shuttle car he was assigned to operate, citing faulty brakes and tram pedals. Campbell reported the problem to members of mine management and also shut down the shuttle car because of the problems. Campbell alleges that his safety complaints were disregarded. On April 7, Campbell also criticized safety practices at the Upper Big Branch Mine during a television interview. On April 14, Campbell was suspended subject to discharge and dismissed April 23.

Campbell filed a complaint under section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 that prohibits a mine operator from retaliating against a miner for exercising protected rights, including making safety complaints. The purpose of the protection is to encourage miners “to play an active part in the enforcement of the Mine Act” recognizing that, “if miners are to be encouraged to be active in matters of safety and health, they must be protected against any possible discrimination which they might suffer as a result of their participation.”

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Here’s an op-ed commentary by United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts that appeared in today’s Gazette, raising an issue first addressed on Coal Tattoo here:

In West Virginia, 29 coal miners are dead. More suffering families filled the nation’s television screens. They buried their dead with dignity and our hearts were broken by their grief.

In the Gulf of Mexico, 11 oil workers are dead. Their families suffered as well, burying their dead with dignity, and the sight of children mourning lost fathers broke our hearts once again.

Two disasters, viewed by most Americans from the comfort of their living rooms — but all too real to those in Montcoal, W.Va., and Venice, La.

But at that point, the similarities between these two national tragedies came to an end, both with respect to the aftermath of the disasters and the way the government is going about investigating what happened.

The environmental destruction still ongoing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is sure to destroy a significant amount of marine life in the Gulf and perhaps beyond, as well as cause long-lasting economic disruption in coastal communities. Nearly every day, above-the-fold headlines in newspapers across America carry the story of the spreading oil spill and the well owner’s failure to stop it.

The federal government, through a joint operation of the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security, has launched a comprehensive, open and public investigation into the Deepwater Horizon/Gulf oil spill disaster, including broadcasting witness interviews on the internet and making documents available for all to see.

The American public will have the opportunity to learn, firsthand, what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion, who was responsible and what steps are being taken to both mitigate the damage done and keep it from happening again.

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News from Massey’s annual meeting in Richmond

This image provided by Rising Tide DC, shows a banner that was hung in the Palm Court of the Jefferson hotel as part of a protest during the annual meeting of Massey Energy at the hotel in Richmond, Va.,Tuesday, May 18, 2010. The environmental group said two group members were arrested after unfurling the banner that read “Massey: Stop Putting Profits Over People”. They were charged with trespassing and were expected to be released. (AP Photo/Kim Hyunh via Rising Tide DC)

Here’s AP’s dispatch from today’s events at the Massey Energy Annual Meeting:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A mixture of union representatives and anti-mining activists gathered outside a historic Richmond hotel Tuesday morning to protest against a common foe — Massey Energy Co.

Hundreds of people sang songs, chanted and held signs across the street from the Jefferson Hotel, while Richmond-based Massey’s board opened its annual stockholders meeting inside. Their protests were focused on Massey CEO Don Blankenship, calling for him to resign or to be prosecuted on environmental and workplace safety issues.

The meeting has attracted more attention than usual because it comes six weeks after 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The blast is the nation’s worst coal mining disaster in 40 years and has prompted an outpouring of criticism of Massey.

At least two people were arrested inside the hotel by Richmond police. Hotel officials declined to comment, and police did not immediately identify who was arrested or why.

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Here’s an op-ed piece by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis that appeared in the print edition of today’s Sunday Gazette-Mail:

In the past six weeks, I have made a number of trips to West Virginia to meet with the families of the 29 men who died at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Although there is nothing I can do to eliminate their pain and suffering, I can, as the nation’s top cop on the workplace beat, make sure that we learn the truth about what happened on April 5, and bring those responsible to justice.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration is taking an aggressive and unique approach to the Upper Big Branch Mine investigation — one that utilizes every possible tool we have to get the truth, ensure transparency and accountability, and preserve the ability of federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges if it is determined that crimes were committed.

Our dedication to transparency begins with the unprecedented number of public hearings we will conduct, including one where miners, contractors, mine officials and others with knowledge of the Upper Big Branch Mine will participate. We will use subpoena power if necessary to ensure that happens. Other public hearings will explore the technical aspects of the explosion, as well as allow family members of the deceased to voice their thoughts and suggest potential reforms in mine safety law. We also will host a town hall meeting to promote the exchange of ideas on how best to create a culture of safety — and practical ways to improve safety — at mining operations. These events will be open to the community, as well as to anyone else interested in justice and mine safety, via live webcasts.

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Will Mingo coal-to-liquids plant hire local workers?


Remember the Trans-Gas Development Systems LLC coal-to-liquids project proposed for Mingo County? You know … the one the coal industry says would be so great for local workers and the local economy …

Well, the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation isn’t so sure. The ACT Foundation — a coalition of local construction workers unions — is raising questions about whether the project will hire local folks. And, the group is questioning a draft air pollution permit the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection proposes to issue for the plant.

ACT Foundation officials outlined their concerns in an article in the latest issue of their newsletter, The ACT Report. Steve White, the group’s director, said:

When we looked into at this project, we quickly ran into all sorts of problems. If they won’t use local workers, we usually find they are cutting corners elsewhere.

More...The ACT newsletter reported that “some discussions have taken place” about local hiring with the Tri-State Building and Construction Trades Council, but “an agreement was never reached.” Instead, the newsletter reported, Trans-Gas “said they may bring in workers from New York.”

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MSHA marks annivesary of 1969 mine safety law


Longtime Charleston Gazette photographer Larry Pierce took this famous photo of the Farmington Disaster, which was a defining event that pushed Congress to write a new mine safety and health law.

This statement just in from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today commemorated the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Mine Act), which instituted the strongest and most comprehensive occupational safety and health protections that had ever been enacted in the country.

The Mine Act was born out of a mining disaster that occurred in November 1968, when 78 miners died in an explosion at Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, W.Va. Members of the mining community, angered by the continuing toll being taken on the lives of miners, rallied together and called for sweeping changes. Widows of some of the fallen miners even traveled to Washington to testify before Congress.

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New report: Mining support jobs facing huge decline


Coal miners exit the elevator leaving the North River No. 1 Mine some 700 feet underground after finishing their shift, Jan. 5, 2006 in Berry, Ala. Photo by AP.

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a grim picture for the mining industry.

The report lists “Support activities for mining” among the 10 industries expected to have the largest employment declines over the next decade.  Employment in that sector (see here for definition, as it’s not just coal mining support activities) is projected to decline by nearly a quarter, from 328,000 to 252,000, by 2018.

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UMWA offers more detailed response to Senator Byrd


I asked on Friday if anyone was paying attention when Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., urged the coal industry to “embrace the future”?

One voice that hadn’t had much to say yet about Sen. Byrd’s comments was the United Mine Workers of America and its president, Cecil Roberts. Well, I bugged Phil Smith, media spokesman for Roberts, for a more detailed response to Byrd’s statements. I’ve posted the whole thing below.

First of all, we believe that there is no question that under SMCRA, Congress anticipates, approves and allows surface mining. Sen. Byrd’s commentary reflects and maintains that reality, despite what some may say. The question he raises and we have been asking for some time is: Where are we going from here?

We have constently maintained the following position with regard to MTR:

1)  Our members who work in MTR mines have a right to earn a living performing work that is allowed by the law.
2)  Mine operators have a responsibilty to develop mining plans that follow the law and the rules and regulations derived from that law.
3)  The various government agencies with jurisdiction under SMCRA have a responsibility to ensure that those mining plans meet the law and the regulations — before mining begins, as it is ongoing, and after it is completed — and to do so in a clear and consistent manner. Impacts on the environment and people living in communities close to where MTR takes place must be part of the process in developing, approving and enforcing those mining plans.

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Danish riot police guard a McDonald’s restaurant as demonstrators pass by in Copenhagen Saturday Dec. 12, 2009. The largest and most important U.N. climate change conference is underway in Copenhagen, aiming to secure an agreement on how to protect the world from calamitous global warming. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

International climate talks in Copenhagen have apparently stalled today, as poor nations threatened to walk out on the negotiations, saying that richer nations aren’t doing enough to cut their greenhouse emissions. There’s more on that from the BBC, the Guardian, and Reuters. And the AP has another great story out of Copenhagen, about that key number: 350 ppm.

Meanwhile, one voice we’re not hearing a lot of in the news coverage of Copenhagen is that of workers in industries that are facing serious changes if the world is to deal with the global warming problem. One group that’s in Copenhagen taking part in the talks, and trying to see that worker impacts are considered is the United Mine Workers of America union. As Coal Tattoo has repeatedly pointed out, the UMWA is not taking the position that global warming isn’t real — like others in the coal industry insist on doing — but is seeking a seat at the table to try to keep its industry viable in a carbon-constrained world.

trisko.jpgOver the weekend, I did a quick e-mail interview with my buddy Gene Trisko, the UMWA’s representative at the Copenhagen talks … I’m just going to give you all my questions and Gene’s answers …

Question:  What is at stake in Copenhagen for the coal industry in Appalachia?

Trisko: The Copenhagen process does not itself pose any new or additional threats to coal mining in Appalachia, beyond those posed by pending domestic climate legislation and EPA regulatory initiatives under the Clean Air Act and other statutes (e.g., potentially treating coal ash as toxic waste, requiring multiple new Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants by 2014, new ozone and particulate matter standards, etc.)  We are currently evaluating the potential risks to coal that these new regulatory initiatives may create.

The Obama targets for Copenhagen are the same as those in the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House last June, starting with a 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 and ending with an 83% cut by 2050.  The UMWA does not support the 17% 2020 target because CCS technologies will not be widely deployed on a commercial basis at that time.  At most, there will be 5-10 demonstration plants online at that time. 

Reducing 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 is the equivalent of removing all the cars from the road.  Both DOE and EPA analyses show that coal use would be reduced significantly by 2020 due to fuel-switching. We need more flexibility in the timing of implementation, and certainty in the supply of adequate financial incentives to ensure that coal is not displaced by natural gas, raising gas prices for all consumers and energy-intensive industries. 

There is real uncertainty whether there will be an agreement in Copenhagen, due to the insistence by some countries on keeping the Kyoto Protocol in force. The US has stated that it will not join in an amended Kyoto Protocol, and wants a new agreement covering all nations. If there is no agreement by next Saturday, the talks may be adjourned for six months or so. 

The US is hoping to obtain a “politically binding” agreement on emission reductions by industrial and developing nations, to be followed by a more detailed agreement next year.  It is not clear whether the Obama Administration could, in effect, bypass the need for Senate ratification of such an international agreement.  Count on careful Senate scrutiny of any “politically binding” agreement reached here.

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CONSOL to lay off 500 miners … but who is to blame?

Just a little more than two weeks before Christmas now, and Pittsburgh-based CONSOL Energy drops a bomb on 500 West Virginia families.

As a Coal Tattoo reader pointed out — and has now been reported by The Associated Press as well —  CONSOL plans to lay off workers at its Fola Coal operations near Bickmore. The move affects 104 workers at the Little Eagle Coal Company and 378 at the Fola Coa. Layoffs are scheduled to start Feb. 7 and occur over a 14-day period.

Scott 14, a frequent Coal Tattoo reader and commenter, is one of those impacted, and he deserves his say — I’ll repeat it again here:

Well It had to happen sooner or later. Just yesterday the employees at CONSOL’s FOLA operations were issued a WARN notice. In 60 days all employees, about 300, will be wards of the state. This is brought about by a radical few who have found a liberal Judge and challenged our permit on a technicality. 300 people will now be out of work because a few thought a entire permit should be published in the paper. The economy of Clay county will be devestated. Nicholas county will like wise be harsly effected by loss of coal severence taxes . Just this year 10 teacher positions in Nicholas County are going to be eliminated because of declines in coal severence taxes. Just think of how many will now be effected because this permit in question lies on the border of Clay and Nicholas. This layoff includes all of our underground brothers because they dont mine enough coal to justify the expence of the plant and loadout. Well I hope everyone is happy that a mountain and a hollar that your have never seen. A creek that salmanders wouldnt live in, and trees that have all ready went up in smoke are going to be saved. Please dont give me any of the green economy stuff this morning, Im not in the mood. Im a surface miner, like my father before me. I plan on continuing to be a surface miner. Be it in Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Montana or Northern Canada, Ill be tearing up mother earth somewhere.

But what really caused these layoffs?

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Miners collect checks in Massey settlement


Charleston lawyer David Grubb passes out checks to jubilant miners Sunday at their union hall in Cannelton. Gazette photo by Chip Ellis

Hey folks! Coal Tattoo is back online. Thanks for your patience, and for all the comments while I was out. I hope everyone had a good holiday.

I’m hoping to do a roundup later about a bunch of big coal-related news that happened in my absense.

In the meantime, make sure to check out my buddy Paul Nyden’s story today, “85 miners collect checks in Massey settlement.”  As Paul writes:

Eighty-five coal miners laid off from Cannelton Mining after Massey Energy took it over and renamed it Mammoth Coal gathered at their local union hall on Sunday afternoon. Each miner received a $38,000 check from Massey.

On Oct. 30, Massey agreed to pay $8.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 2006 in Fayette County on behalf of 229 miners and job applicants who were over 40 years old.

See previous coverage here, here and here.

Miners settle age discrimination case against Massey

This announced today by the United Mine Workers of America union:

More than 200 miners over the age of 40, including 82 members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local Union 8843, who applied for work at a West Virginia mine operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy will share an $8.75 million settlement of an age discrimination class action suit they filed against the company and its CEO, Don Blankenship, in 2006.

The miners applied for employment at Massey subsidiary Spartan Mining Company’s Mammoth mine, formerly known as the Cannelton mine, in eastern Kanawha County between September 1, 2004 and August 31, 2006. All were denied employment. The mine had been acquired by Massey after the bankruptcy of the previous owners, Horizon Natural Resources.

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EPA makes deal to protect UMW jobs at Hobet


If you missed it in today’s Gazette, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a tenative agreement with Patriot Coal’s Hobet Mining subsidiary that could protect hundreds of United Mine Worker of America jobs at the sprawling Hobet 21 mountaintop removal complex along the Boone-Lincoln county line in Southern West Virginia.

Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, told me he learned of this “agreement in principle” during a meeting Thursday in Charleston with EPA officials from the federal agency’s regional office in Philadelphia.

As my story mentioned, details are sketchy, but Huffman said the agreement appears to cut the amount of stream being impacted by mining in half.

Huffman described his meeting with EPA as “good and informative” and said:

I think EPA is starting to get a better handle on what they want. It’s not a wholesale attempt to shut down coal mining.

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NLRB to Massey: Rehire union mine workers

Breaking news just in from the United Mine Workers of America union:

The National Labor Relations Board has affirmed a decision that Massey Energy must rehire 85 coal miners who alleged they were illegally discriminated against because of their union affiliation.

The full NRLB decision concerning Massey subsidiary Mammoth Coal is posted here, and this is what UMWA President Cecil Roberts had to say  this morning about it:

This tremendous victory affirms what we have been saying all along. Mammoth Coal had an obligation to recognize the union when it bought this mine out of bankruptcy, and it had an obligation to rehire the miners who were working there at the time.

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Health care and coal miners


 A roof bolter at work at Blue Mt. Energy’s Deserado Mine, Rangely, Colo. Photo by Phil Smith, UMWA.

Interesting news out there today about the latest version of a health-care bill and its potential impacts on folks like coal miners, who work in dangerous occupations and have pretty valuable health-care insurance plans through their employers.

Apparently, the proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, would levy a heavy tax on those insurance plans — a tax that folks like West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee’s second-ranking Democrat — thinks is unfair. According to this Associated Press account:

Rockefeller, who met privately with Obama on Wednesday, said the proposal “could prevent workers in high-risk professions from getting the health benefits that they need, particularly coal miners.”

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Former coal miner to head nation’s labor movement


I mentioned back in July that it seemed almost certain that Rich Trumka, a former coal miner and former president of the United Mine Workers of America union, would be elected president of the national AFL-CIO.

Well, that’s just what happened this week at the labor organization’s annual convention in Pittsburgh. And in his acceptance speech, Trumka talked a fair amount about coal, coal miners, and the truggle for justice in the coalfields. His references started very early in the speech:

And then there’s my extended family: my brother Cecil Roberts and the men and women of the United Mine Workers of America.

From my first day working in a coal mine to my last day as its International president, I have been in awe of the courage and compassion – and the unbreakable solidarity — of my UMWA brothers and sisters

And I want you to know that just as you have always stood with me, I will always stand with you.

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