...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

January 04, 2006

Here's Where You Need Unions

From L.A. Times:

The mine's federal health and safety violations had nearly doubled over the last year, rising from 68 citations in 2004 to 181 in 2005. Nearly half of the 2005 totals were deemed "significant and substantial," the government's term for serious mine safety problems. The deficiencies included problems with the firm's ventilation and roof support plans.

At least 46 federal violations had been cited since October. And records from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration indicated that at least a dozen roof collapses occurred in the last six months.

In addition, Terry Farley, a West Virginia mine safety official, confirmed that the Sago Mine was also cited by state regulators for 208 violations in 2005, up from 74 the year before.

Posted by annika, Jan. 4, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


How long before a prominent Democrat accuses Bush of being personally responsible? How long before the MSM, begins a "thoughtful" and "fair" look at the administration's connection to the mining industry. (The reporting on this was so bad that the MSM is going to have to shift the focus somehow.)

Posted by: Blu on Jan. 4, 2006

To the title of this post, Annie, a hearty "amen, sister."

Posted by: Hugo on Jan. 4, 2006


As to your post: WHY? Is there data that indicates that unionism leads to better safety generally or mining safety specifically? If so, where does the data come from?

Just read your post on the recent CT moview review. Very interesting regardless of perspective.


Posted by: Blu on Jan. 4, 2006

I don't know about unions, but how many serious safety violations and roof collapses does it take before someone shuts the damn thing down? If a company has such a dramatic increase in citations in a single year, why would someone not put the safety of the workers first and not allow another person to set foot in the mine until all rules and regs were followed?

It sounds to me like another case of beaurocratic bark with no bite. The government can cite you over and over again, but until they can affect the companies bottom line, the company won't clean itself up.

Posted by: Frank on Jan. 4, 2006

Gotta agree with Blu and Frank, annie. I don't think there's a non-union mine in WV; if true, obviously a union couldn't, wouldn't, or didn't do shit about this. I can't blame the union or lack thereof for this.

OTOH, as Frank touches on, regulations with no enforcement or fines so low they amount to a licence fee, don't impact a company's bottom line. If it's cheaper to pay a fine and ignore safety regs, a company has no incentive to follow them. It isn't until something like this happens that they will stop thumbing their noses at the regulations.

Posted by: Victor on Jan. 4, 2006

You little cake-eater. Why do you think WV votes demoncrat? The United Mine Workers have owned that state politically for a looooooong time.

Posted by: Casca on Jan. 4, 2006

Workman's comp insurance in Minnesota is required by law and is covered by private insurance companies. My experience has been that the insurance companies are much more strict about workplace conditions than OSHA. Their safety experts give you great advice. They do not want to pay out money in claims so they wouldn't insure you if they fill your workplace is unsafe.

In West Virginia, workman's comp insurance is covered by the state. The state has no incentive to find and correct unsafe working conditions. They just keep raising the rates because there is no competition.

Posted by: Jake on Jan. 4, 2006

Jake, that is the beauty of government enterprises: No competition, which means no innovation and ultimately no progress. It's actually capitalism 101 and shouldn't be too hard for anybody to figure out. Unless, of course, you are a bone-headed collectivist.

Posted by: Blu on Jan. 4, 2006

interesting comments. I'm just wondering, with such a noticeable increase in violations, the Union didn't go out on strike until things got fixed. I mean, that's where you need unions, not because some overpaid grocery clerks might have to pay 1% more in co-pay.

Posted by: annika on Jan. 4, 2006

BLU its already happened, moonbats are blaming bush, its on my blog!

Posted by: kyle on Jan. 4, 2006

Annika, Sego had purchased the mine only a year ago and were supposedly trying to improve it. I think I would have had the most serious violations fixed BEFORE I purchased.

Posted by: kyle on Jan. 4, 2006

Casca, I have some intersting pictures of a big piece of crap yard in WV, complete with several cars on blocks and trash everywhere, and it has some great big Kerry/Edwards stickers, and "Union and Proud" posters all over it. - Priceless.

Posted by: kyle on Jan. 4, 2006

I think the fact that grocery clerks want to unionize is the main thing holding me back from living in the sunshine state. Anyhow somebody should've been on top of this; I'm curious to see the reason why the regulations weren't enforced, especially with such a strong union presence. Perhaps the dems and the union leaders were a little too cozy in their power situation out there, but it would seem, from the Times article excerpt, that the executive branch bureaucracy bears some direct responsiblity. Its very sad for the families involved. Why do we still use coal anyway?

Posted by: perfect 2 cents on Jan. 4, 2006

"Why do we still use coal anyway?" Coal generates about half of all US electricity, and usage will probably increase since natural gas, which has been the preferred fuel for new plants, is getting scarcer and more expensive. In principle, nuclear could be used for most electrical production, along with hydropower, wind, and solar. But even then, coal will be needed: it can be converted to both oil for transporation fuel and to natural gas for home heating and other uses.

Posted by: David Foster on Jan. 4, 2006

I know, I've driven down I-77 many a time, and that's the good part of the state.

Anni, the unions the world over are in bed with mgt. First order of business for a union thug is to fuck the members, and get his brother in the legislature.

Posted by: Casca on Jan. 4, 2006


For the record, the insurance in question is WOrkers Compensation (Workmans comp was dropped as sexist about ten years ago. I guess that's when some women began to enter the work place.) I have workers comp insurance and it is carried by the State Insurance Fund of NY. I have had this policy without interuption for 3o years and they have inspected my business every year, made some good suggestions, insisted on some changes and sent me numerious pamphlets and posters about safty issues. Oh, did I mention that they have the lowest rates in NYS? Gee, I guess they never took eco 101.

I also had an OSHA inspection of my facility during the Carter admin. The inspector was fair and the fines though manageable were reduced during negotiations. (BTW I have not had an inspection since) After Carter, Raygun, gutted OSHA's budget for inspectors but did not change the safty standars companies were obliged to follow. He also saw to it that the penalities were reduced as well. This method has become the standard for Republican admistrations in many areas of federal oversight. They pound the table insisting that they are committed to protecting the working stiff but fail to mention that they have made it impossible for the fed protect anybody except the corporations through neglect. They leave in place all the regulations but they gut the staffing budget. The result is that corporations can act with impunity since the chance of getting caught is nearly nil and the fines quite pleasant compared to compliance. I guess they did go to eco 101.

Speaking of coal. The one praise I have for the Bush Administration, yes I do, is that they have been slowly but steadly pushing for the resumption of nuclear power. Currently applications for one or two plants are being considered. NP must be resumed. Coal is responsible for shorting the lives of 24000 americans each year due to the particulant pollution as well as 130 million tons of solid by-product.

I know none of you would be caught dead reading the New Yorker, but a few weeks ago there was a long winded and fascinating article about the extraction of coal from open pit mines in Wyoming and it's delivery by train to the largest power plant in the nation outside Macon GA. This plant burns one 135 car train load, 13,000 tons, each 8 hour shift. IF the reserve yard at this plant, 2 million tons, were to be replaced by uranium, it would require a 15 ton flatbed truck to carry it. Fission is the answer for the long haul and I am pleased America is waking up to this. For this alone I might not drag W by the throat off to the Hague to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. I would hire Casca to do it.

Annika, Sego is a non union mine so the onus for regulating is squarley on management and the feds not any union. Or maybe that is what your post was saying. It was a bit vague as you can tell by those above who immediatly assumed you were taking an anti-union stance.

Posted by: Strawman on Jan. 4, 2006

I don't see how anyone could think that Annika was taking an anti-union stance. I believe the post's title is "Here's Where You Need Unions"?

If Sego was not unionised then the minors likely had no farkin' idea about the number of safety violations because no one who knew was interested in telling them.

I predict that within 72 hours we'll get the "I take responsibity for the problem... and for the solution" speech from President Bush. OSHA will have some new teeth by this time next year.

Posted by: Tuning Spork on Jan. 4, 2006

annika you said union
now i heart you

Posted by: tony on Jan. 4, 2006

Many good comments on both sides. Note that Bush is pushing for much more coal fired power generation, instead of conservation and renewable energy sources.

I'll also note that I power and heat my house primarily with solar power, doing my part to help to reduce all of the downsides of coal burning (i.e., climate change, many types of pollution, destruction of mountaintopss and habit, poisoning of streams, mining disasters, etc).

I even made a solar cooker with my daughter as a school project. Yes, clouds do happen, but then I heat my house with a renewable, carbon-neutral source; wood.

Posted by: will on Jan. 5, 2006

Not exactly addressing the issue of unions with this comment, but rather addressing the safety issue, specifically the violations found:

Reuter's article link "West Virginia miners drawn by money and solidarity"

(It's a Tinyurl link because the submit function kept on rejecting the Reuter's URL)

Quote: ""Many of those violations were written during an inspection asked for by International Coal Group after they bought the mine so they could correct any problems," Hamilton said."

"Hamilton" being Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association, a group representing coal producers.

Interesting comment. If I'm reading things right, the old mine owners were probably the negligent ones, and the new owners may have been trying to fix things. Of course, the timeframe is unknown, so the current owners may have been negligent, too if it turns out that they had the time to do something about the problems and didn't... Eh... there are a lot of unknowns here.

Posted by: elmondohummus on Jan. 5, 2006

Anyone who understands basic econ should understand that unions are a great example of wasted resources and socialistic wealth transfer.

For all the money they vacuum from the pockets of members, the LEAST unions should is make sure their employees are safe.

Posted by: Mark on Jan. 6, 2006

So even though the people who were putting their lives on the line every day, and are the real professionals here, (I'm talking about the miners in case you aren't getting that.) are going to bat for the mine saying they thought it was very safe then, and now, doesn't really cout much in the face of VIOLAtions, huh?

Posted by: Patrick on Jan. 8, 2006