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UMWA President Roberts calls for House passage of Enzi-Kennedy mine safety bill/Union is preparing suit to force MSHA to test SC

May 25, 2006

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

“Ever since the Sago disaster and subsequent tragedies spurred legislative action to improve mine safety, the UMWA has supported every one of those initiatives in Congress that would improve health and safety in America’s coal mines. Now, there is finally a bi-partisan bill that will do that, the Enzi-Kennedy MINER Act that was passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday morning.

“As of today, 33 coal miners have been killed on the job thus far in 2006, and 51 have been killed since May 1, 2005. This carnage must stop, and I believe the MINER Act as passed by the Senate will help do that. I have said repeatedly that I sincerely hope the House of Representatives will pass it as soon as possible.

“Congressman Miller has called for improvements in the MINER Act. I appreciate Congressman Miller and all he has done and continues to do on behalf of America’s coal miners. I also understand and respect that his actions are part of the legislative process.

“But with respect to the MINER act, which would improve coal mine health and safety for the first time since 1977, the UMWA believes that the House should take this rare opportunity and pass it without delay.

“This does not mean that the UMWA believes the MINER Act addresses all of our concerns or takes all the actions that we believe need to be taken to make miners safe on the job, and we’ve made that clear. We will continue to seek improvements in coal mine health and safety through any and all means, be they legislative, regulatory or through the courts.

“To that end, we are preparing a lawsuit that will be filed in Federal District Court next week that will seek an injunction requiring the Mine Safety and Health Administration to immediately conduct random testing of oxygen-generating self-contained self-rescuers at every mine in the United States. Our suit will also call for the immediate implementation of training that would give miners the opportunity to actually put on and use these devices in true mining conditions underground, as opposed to the classroom training they receive now.

“There have been too many reports of these units failing in actual emergency situations this year to ignore. MSHA has not taken the steps it should take as the watchdog for miner safety to verify that these units - which miners entrust their lives to every day - are indeed in good working order. So, we’re going to court to ensure that they are.”

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