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Bush budget cuts to MSHA coal enforcement “absurd,” UMWA’s Roberts says

February 4, 2008

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

    “With his action to cut the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) budget dealing with enforcement of safety and health legislation in coal mines by $10 million, President Bush has told America’s coal miners that he doesn’t care about making the improvements so clearly needed to keep them safe and healthy on the job.

    “Since the Bush administration took office, 232 people have been killed in America’s coal mines, 82 of them since Jan. 1, 2006. The nation watched as disaster after disaster rocked the coalfields over the last two Sago, Aracoma, Darby, and then Crandall Canyon just six months ago.

    “People all over America–indeed, all over the world–asked: ‘How can this happen? How can it be that American coal miners are still getting killed on the job?’

    “The answer is clear. Miners are being killed because of neglect on the part of their government. And while that neglect has been mounting, some coal operators have taken advantage and blatantly ignored safety and health laws and regulations at their whim.

    “Mandatory inspections of coal mines aren’t getting done because MSHA doesn’t have enough trained, qualified inspectors to do them. Fines for over 4,000 of those who did get caught violating the law weren’t assessed–and even when they are assessed, they frequently aren’t collected.

    “A rational person would think that solving these critical issues would require an improvement in funding for the federal government’s enforcement watchdog, so that MSHA would have the resources it needs to do its job. But that kind of thinking is apparently in short supply in the White House these days.

      “President Bush’s absurd MSHA budget cuts make it even more clear to us that we need a new president–one who understands the day-to-day needs of working men and women and who will fight for healthy and safe workplaces for all Americans. On January 20, 2009, we fervently hope Americans will get such a president. The UMWA is going to fight like hell to make sure we do.”

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