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UMWA designated Miners' Representative in Upper Big Branch investigation

April 26, 2010
For immediate release?: 

TRIANGLE, VA – The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has been designated a miners’ representative in the ongoing investigation into the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners lost their lives in an April 5 explosion.

“Although Upper Big Branch is a nonunion mine, federal regulations permit the UMWA to represent the miners at any mine if two or more of them designate us to represent them on safety issues,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “That has happened at Upper Big Branch. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has confirmed it.

“The UMWA intends to fulfill our responsibility under federal law to the best of our ability.” Roberts said. “Our representatives delivered the papers designating us as miner’s representative to the mine site late Friday afternoon and did gain access to the property.”

The names of the miners making the request are being kept confidential due to their concern of possible retribution by Massey Energy, whose Performance Coal subsidiary operates the mine.

“I want to applaud these workers, who have the courage to want representation from an independent organization with 120 years’ experience of working to improve safety and health in all of America's mines, regardless of union status. We will do everything in our power to live up to the trust they have placed in us,” Roberts said. “In turn, we have the right to be full participants in this investigation, and we will exercise that right.”

Union safety experts are coordinating with investigation teams from MSHA and the State of West Virginia to plan the underground phase of the investigation.

“It is in everyone’s interest to find out conclusively what happened on April 5,” Roberts said. “I urge Massey management to continue cooperate fully, and permit all parties to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.”


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