Racine Hydro Plant – Local Union 1886

On the Ohio River in southeast Ohio lies the Racine Hydro Plant, manned and operated by members of UMWA Local Union 1886. The Racine Hydro Plant is a 48-megawatt run-of-river hydroelectric facility that was completed and opened in 1983. The plant has two hydroelectric turbines that produce an average generation of 200,500 megawatts per hour of clean electricity per year. That is enough energy to power 18,000 houses.

In January 2022, the Racine Hydro Plant was sold from its previous owner, American Electric Power, to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. Along with the sale and transfer came a new contract that was negotiated between the UMWA, Local Union 1886 members, and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy management on January 2, 2022.

During the years of the facility being represented by the UMWA, the union aided workers in moving up their classifications from Hydro B to Hydro A, which guaranteed them the correct pay scale for their skill level.

Local Union 1886 member Adam Lee is an ICE Technician and handles the majority of the electrical work at the plant. “It’s extremely important to be a part of a union that represents its workers,” said Adam. “If you don’t, you’re liable to be steamrolled by the company whenever they see fit.”

Kevin Marcinko has been a member of Local Union 1886 for seven years and has performed duties from mechanic to operations. “I’ve been here long enough to see the transition between companies and how important it is to be represented by your union.”

“Having a voice at your workplace is priceless,” said Local Union 1886 member and Utility Mechanic George Parker. “You never know what kind of situation you may find yourself in when you do this kind of work. Being heard means not only longevity but safety on the job.”

“In a time when energy is the main topic of conversation, we are proud to represent workers that have been able to transition into jobs where they are able to continue earning a living and be represented by a union. Hats off to these members for setting the example for a true transition.” President Roberts

“We are very proud to represent these Local Union 1886 members during negotiations for their new contract,” said International District 17 Vice President Brian Lacy. “Being a part of the UMWA has ensured them a seat at the table to bargain for the wages and benefits they have today.”

Indiana County Recycling Center – Local Union 1412

In 1988, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed Act 101, the Municipal Waste, Planning, Recycling, and Waste Reduction Act, requiring all counties to conduct comprehensive waste planning to evaluate waste generation rates, available disposal capacity, recycling opportunities, and more.

The Solid Waste Authority operates the Indiana County Recycling Center in Homer City, Pennsylvania, where all recyclable materials handled by the county are processed and marketed. UMWA Local Union 1412 has represented workers employed at the recycling center since 1997.

The recycling center provides a 24-hour residential drop-off location for many materials and also offers special recycling collection programs that include scrap tires, lead acid batteries, large metal appliances, and electronic items, just to name a few.

Mike Bowersox, Local Union 1412 member, has been working at the center for 17 years and serves on the Grievance and Safety Committees. “Having been a member since shortly after I started here at the recycling center, I can say I am very proud of all of us who are employed here at the facility,” said Bowersox. “There’s only seven of us, and we handle recycling needs for about 12,000 households.

“We worked through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic because we were deemed essential employees”, said Bowersox. “We all work well together to serve the members of our community. During the pandemic, with all the health and safety risks that were happening during that time, we knew the union always had our backs.”

In addition to the day-to-day operations at the Indiana facility, the Solid Waste Authority processes and markets materials collected through Jefferson County’s drop-off recycling program. Jefferson County delivers approximately 250 additional tons of materials per year to the recycling center for processing and marketing. In addition, smaller quantities of materials are brought to the recycling center from Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties.

“The members of Local Union 1412 are second to none,” said District 2 Vice President Chuck Knisell. “If you can imagine seven individuals accomplishing what they do on a daily basis, it’s quite something. Our members perform a vital service that helps the community, and indeed the surrounding, rural communities as well”, said Knisell.

“They do an outstanding job, and we are proud of the work they do. Most importantly, I’m glad we can call them members of the United Mine Workers of America.”

Jay Doyle, member of Local Union 1412, began working at the recycling center in May 2009. “I have made some great friendships since I’ve been here”, said Doyle. “It’s a great feeling knowing that you are doing what I would say is community service work,” said Doyle. “I think if you asked anyone in the community, they would say we do a great job with the recycling center and are happy to have the type of facility we offer.”

Indiana County recently began to revise and update the county’s Municipal Waste Management Plan. The planning effort will develop new projections of the types and quantities of waste likely to be generated in the county over the next decade. It will evaluate recycling programs and opportunities, and it will solicit for landfill disposal capacity sufficient to manage county wastes during the ten-year planning period.

“The services that our members of Local Union 1412 provide to the community on a day-to-day basis are extremely important,” said President Roberts. “Their efforts are essential and vital to everyone. If you think about the thousands of tons of materials that are processed through the facility each year, it is an amazing accomplishment.

“Our members at the recycling center are doing a great job at providing an important service to the community, and we should all be very appreciative of their hard work and dedication.”

The 24-hour residential dropoff location stays extremely busy, especially on the weekends. Sometimes residents are lined up to the main highway that sits in front of the facility to drop off their items to be recycled. The facility handles cardboard, plastic bottles, magazines, glass bottles, newspapers, aluminum cans, and much more.

The recycling center offers tours of the facility, free of charge, to residents, schools, civic organizations, and other interested parties. “The members of Local Union 1412 work diligently and efficiently for the communities in which they provide services,” said Region 1 Director Mike Payton. “They make a difference in people’s lives every day and make their community a safer place to live because of the services they offer.”

 

Remembering a True American Hero

Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, a Marine Corps veteran and the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, passed away on June 29th at the age of 98.

“Woody was a true hero for many Americans and not just because he was a Medal of Honor winner,” said President Roberts. “Woody was a genuine person who did not act like he was any different or any better than anyone else. He was an inspiration to all who encountered him, always willing to listen and offer advice if asked but was never judgmental. He accepted people for who they were.”

A description, given on the military’s Medal of Honor website, detailed Williams’ actions in battle to clear the way for American tanks and infantry. The website said he was “quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands.

Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions.” Facing small-arms fire, Williams fought for four hours, repeatedly returning to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.

The website says, “His underlying determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective.”

President Roberts, a veteran himself, serving in the Vietnam War, considered Woody a friend and a true American hero.

“Our world needs more people like Woody Williams,” said Roberts. “He did not shirk his duty when called upon, and when he came home from the battlefield a hero, he did not flaunt it,” Roberts continued.

“Every member and veteran of the United Mine Workers of America will miss him terribly, and our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Veterans – Local Union 1307

Local Union 1307, based in Diamondville, Wyoming, is the oldest actively coal-producing local in our union and is still producing coal today. The local has been producing coal for over 110 years.

Members of Local Union 1307 meet at the Search and Rescue building on the third Friday of each month to hold their local union meetings.

As a part of District 22 in Price, Utah, International District 22 President Mike Dalpiaz says part of what makes the local so unique is the patriotism of the membership.

Tom Tennyson, a 49-year member of Local 1307, is not only a member of the United Mine Workers of America, but he is also a United States Army veteran, having served 6 years during the Vietnam War. Tom is also an Honor Guard Member of American Legion Post 55 in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Ed Ourada has been a UMWA member of the local for 48 1/2 years and served 21 years in the United States Air Force. He served our country in the Vietnam War, Cold War, and the Gulf War in Iraq. As if serving his country through three wars wasn’t enough, he is also an Honor Guard Member of American Legion Post 55 in Kemmerer.

Brother John Feloni, a 49-year member of the local served six years in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. Along with Brother Tennyson and Ourada, he is a member of American Legion Post 55.

“With over 146 years of combined UMWA membership and 33 years of service to our great nation, these are some of the strongest union guys in their local,” Dalpiaz said.

“These gentlemen have been there to support all of their union brothers and sisters at every turn. The loyalty they have shown to our country, to the membership of Local Union 1307, and indeed to everyone who belongs to the United Mine Workers of America, is remarkable.”

A Letter in Honor of Veterans Day

Written by Local Union 1124 Member David Maragni

Edited for use in the UMW Journal

 

In the late 1960s at Central Junior High School in West Frankfort, my homeroom teacher was Mrs. Juanita Kinney.

One morning we were told that Mrs. Kinney would not be there for a while; her son had been killed in Vietnam. Like all of us who grew up during that time, I had learned to observe the pain, loss, and distance that others felt who had loved ones at war.

In 1973, I graduated from Frankfort Community High School. Two weeks later, I reported for induction into the U.S. Army.

After my three years in the Army, I returned to southern Illinois. I contacted Mrs. Kinney (now Mrs. Neal) and told her I was in her class at the time of her son’s death and that when the Vietnam War is mentioned, I always think of him.

She thanked me and told me that Richard had been buried in Marion in a family plot. She said he was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines. While on Hill 881, helping others, he was shot in the head. That was April 30, 1967.

Mrs. Neal gave me a small photo of Richard. She said that John 10:28 had given her much peace at the time of his death. “And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

“I still hurt and cried,” she said. “But I never worried about him ever again. He is safe now.”

We wrote to each other from time to time. Eventually, one of my letters didn’t get a response. I didn’t think too much about it. A while later I went to the cemetery to place a flag on her son’s grave and found her grave close by. Veterans Day is an opportunity to look back at people like Richard Kinney.

His mom said, “He always wanted to serve in the Navy.” His service cost him his life. The Bible says, “No man lives or dies unto himself.” Some people we have never met influence our lives by losing theirs.

Ten-Year Anniversary of the Washing of The Wall

July 23, 2022, marked the tenth anniversary of UMWA veterans and West Virginia Vietnam Veterans of America’s participation in the annual washing of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (The Wall).

“We haven’t been able to participate in this annual tradition for the past two years because of the pandemic,” said President Roberts. “The majority of us who participate in this special event each year are all veterans. I know I speak for each and every one of us when I say this is one of the most honorable things we can do as veterans. For those of us who actually got to come home from Vietnam, it is a very somber experience to see the names of one of our fellow servicemen etched on the granite of the memorial wall.

“This year makes it a little more special because we haven’t been able to be here for the last few years,” Roberts said. “When we come here, I think we all say a little prayer for the men and women’s names who are on The Wall, and we all thank God that we were afforded the opportunity to return home to our families. Coming here is just a small token of our way of paying our respects to all those who lost their lives and never returned home.”

The Vietnam Memorial Wall includes the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam conflict. The memorial includes the Vietnam Veterans Wall, the Three Servicemen statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. It is the most visited memorial on the National Mall, attracting more than five million people each year.

The inscription on the wall reads, “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”

On January 21, 1970, Jan Scruggs was having his morning cup of coffee, but he was anywhere but in his kitchen at home. He was in Vietnam serving in the 199th light infantry brigade. In the nine months since he had been there, he had seen a lot of action. He had been wounded during battle, spent three months recovering in a hospital, and was sent back to fight with rocket-propelled grenade fragments permanently embedded in his body.

On that January day, there was a big explosion and Scruggs ran over to see a truck on fire and a dozen of his friends dying. They had been unloading an ammunition truck when the explosion occurred. Scruggs never forgot that horrific scene and never forgot his friends.

In 1979, Scruggs conceived the idea to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a tribute to all those who served during one of the longest wars in American history. He felt the memorial would serve as a healing device for those who visited the memorial. Scruggs launched his vision with $2,800 of his own money and gradually gained support from other Vietnam veterans in persuading Congress to provide a prominent location on federal government property in Washington, D.C.

Congress eventually responded, and the site was chosen on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. Scruggs is the president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc., and was able to raise $8.4 million. The memorial was completed in just two years.

It was dedicated on November 13, 1982, during a weeklong national salute to Vietnam veterans in the nation’s capital. The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Fund works with the National Park Service to preserve and maintain The Wall.

March 2022, marked the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Since The Wall was dedicated back in 1982, more than 400,000 items have been left by visitors as remembrances and tributes. The National Park Service collects, catalogs, and preserves these items as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial collections with curatorial support over the years from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

In a public statement about the anniversary, he said that he thought the memorial helped bring the nation together and helped people recover from the war, adding that The Wall became a platform for exchanging views without the vitriol that the controversial conflict had stoked.

As part of the 40th-anniversary commemoration, an in-person Reading of the Names ceremony will take place at the memorial site beginning on November 7, 2022.

For 65 hours over a four-day period, each of the 58,281 names on The Wall will be read aloud by thousands of volunteers. The names will be read in the same order they are inscribed on The Wall—by date of casualty.

UMWA’s Anthracite

The Great Anthracite Coal Strike

The Great Anthracite Coal Strike, the first major strike the young UMWA had ever taken on, began on May 12, 1902. At that time almost all coal in the United States that was mined was anthracite coal, ideal for industrial use and heating homes all across the nation. After months of attempting to even get a meeting with mine owners, miners struck for better wages, a shorter work week, and union recognition.

The impact on the national economy was immediate. Coal prices doubled as production dropped. As the winter months were approaching, negotiations between the coal operators and miners proved ineffective. President Theodore Roosevelt feared that a coal shortage would result in hardship for Americans who needed heat during the winter months.

Henry Cabot Lodge, a senior Republican and close friend of the president, warned the president of the potentially disastrous, political consequences if the anthracite strike dragged into November when elections were to be held. Heeding the advice of Lodge, Roosevelt worked behind the scenes to gather information and propose ways to settle the strike. On October 3, 1902, he met with the mine-owning railroad presidents and union leaders.

UMWA President John Mitchell outlined the union’s position while railroad leaders asserted the impossibility of compromise. The meeting ended without a resolution to the crisis, but Roosevelt refused to let things end there and formed a commission to investigate the strike and make recommendations for how to end it.

Secretary of War Elihu Root and banker J.P. Morgan convinced the railroad leaders to abide by the findings of the commission. The union also accepted the commission and on October 20th, voted to end the anthracite strike. The commission recommended in March of 1903 to increase miners’ pay by ten percent, reducing the work day from ten to nine hours and several other concessions.

The strike was a success for UMWA miners in the anthracite region. “Much of what happened in 1902 has repeated itself throughout the history of the United Mine Workers,” said Secretary-Treasurer Sanson.

“If we look at what’s happening with our strike in Alabama today, it mirrors our history,” Sanson continued. “Just like the greedy railroad operators during the anthracite strike, there are the wealthy coal companies like Warrior Met who are making billions of dollars off of the backs of miners who are just trying to make a living wage to support their families.”

Jeddo Coal Company

“When we talk about the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, we are talking about history that goes back for well over a century,” said President Roberts. “This region is one of the cradles of our union. It was UMWA country then, it is UMWA country now, and we intend to do everything in our power to make sure it stays UMWA country,” Roberts continued. “We have third and fourth-generation UMWA members working at facilities like Jeddo, Blaschak, and Reading,” Roberts said.

“Although the coal industry has declined in the past decade, rural parts of Appalachia, like the anthracite, still have the ability and resources to mine coal for many years to come, and our membership will still be there to do it.” Local Union 803 member Mike Starrick has worked for the Jeddo Coal Company for 11 years. “I work the morning shifts here at Jeddo as a controller/operator,” Starrick said.

“I run the breaker from start-up to shut down. I enjoy my job, enjoy my fellow union brothers here, and I’m proud to say I am a member of the UMWA.” Financial Secretary Dave Formica has been with the company for 41 years. In addition to his duties as Financial Secretary, Brother Dave serves on the Mine Safety Committee. “My job here at Jeddo is operating a Caterpillar 992 wheel loader, which is an 814-horsepower loader,” Dave said.

“Basically, in layman’s terms, the coal I load feeds to the prep plant.” Local Union 803 President Danny Dixon is an operator of the Marion 8700 dragline. “I’ve been with Jeddo for 40 years now,” said Dixon. “The machinery I operate was built in 1964 and has been out of commission for a couple of years now. We are supposed to get it restarted and up and running again in the near future, and we are really looking forward to that.”

The operation of the machinery is no small task. These types of equipment cost millions of dollars. The 8700 dragline was at one time the largest in the world, having an 85-cubic yard bucket. The 992-wheel loader has a cubic-yard bucket anywhere from 15 to 32 yards.

“Our members working at Jeddo are very good at what they do,” said Region I Director Mike Payton. “The skill and knowledge they have attained over their many years of experience to operate the machinery is no easy, simple task. And they are proud members of our union, carrying on the tradition of generations.”

Blaschak Coal

Local Union 2587 member Rich Menchey has been a UMWA member since 1977, spent 25 years with Reading Anthracite Coal just a few miles away, and the rest of that time has been with Blaschak Coal. “You name it, and I’ve probably done it,” Menchey said. “I worked the shovel crew and have been a truck driver, a maintenance mechanic and currently I’m a loader operator here at Blaschak.”

Brother Menchey has been union his entire working career. “I’ve never worked non-union, and for that, I consider myself lucky,” Menchey said.

“I know I can always count on my union for anything, and that’s what being in a union is all about; security, peace of mind, and knowing that someone always has your back.” Local 2587 and 10-year UMWA member Ryan Ramsey works at the mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania, and is a welder for the company. “I went to school to become a welder and got my state and federal certifications,” said Ramsey.

“I worked non-union before I became a member of the UMWA, and once I joined the union, I decided I’m never turning back,” Ramsey said. “You always know when you are going to get a wage increase and when your vacations are going to be. It’s just a nice thing to have and something I never had before joining the union.” As a fourth-generation UMWA member, Joe Gadola, Jr., a member of Local Union 7226, has worked for Blaschak for the last 9 years. “I’m currently a loader operator,” Gadola said.

“My dad worked at Jeddo for years and was in Local Union 1507, and I actually worked at Jeddo before coming to Blaschak. The breaker here was built in 1955, started out as a mom-and-pop shop, and it’s been union since day one, and my family and I have been union since day one.”

The coal produced at Blaschak, after cleaning and sizing, is packaged and ready for market. A majority of the coal is shipped to a bagging facility just adjacent to the breaker. Blaschak also has over 600 dealers, some as far west as Wyoming. The coal is shipped to the dealers mainly for the purpose of heating homes.

Reading Anthracite Coal

Reading Anthracite Coal Company, also known for its logo, Famous Reading Anthracite, originated in 1871 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Reading may be the company with the longest, continuous UMWA representation in the United States.

There have been a few bumps along the way, like in 1990 when Reading tried to introduce new language in the UMWA contract that would have allowed them to sidestep long-standing seniority rights and work schedule protections. More than 200 UMWA members stuck together and rejected Reading’s proposals. After three failed attempts, Reading reversed the adverse proposals and UMWA members ratified a new agreement.

UMWA members of Local Union 1686 are still paving the way for the company’s continued success. One of those members is Chip Eichenberg, who operates the 7800 Marion dragline that was first put into service in 1961 and carries a 35-cubic yard bucket.

“I enjoy running the dragline; it’s my job, and I take pride in it, even though it can be pretty tedious at times,” Eichenberg said. “Sometimes I joke and say it’s like a poor man’s Grand Canyon. It’s some pretty unique work we do, especially for anyone who is not familiar with this area. Most people are more familiar with underground mining instead of surface mining,”

Brother Eichenberg continued. “Our brothers and sisters working in the anthracite are proud of their heritage here in northeastern Pennsylvania,” said International District 2 Vice President Chuck Knisell. “They know what it means to work in this region. At one time, the entirety of this region was one of the largest suppliers of coal in the world and UMWA members were the sole reason for that,” Knisell continued.

“We’ve had a decent relationship with the companies in this region for a number of years, and we are confident that will remain in the years to come,” Knisell said. “Our members have been here through the test of time and will continue to be here for as long as there is coal to be mined.”

Cook Coal Terminal – Local Union 2463

Just off the banks of the Ohio River sits the massive American Electric Power (AEP) Cook Coal Terminal in Metropolis, Illinois. The terminal
stretches across a sprawling 1,600 acres and is dubbed “America’s busiest inland terminal.” Operating seven power plants across the nation, AEP serves nearly 5.5 million customers across 11 states.

In July, Secretary-Treasurer Sanson and International District 12 Vice President Steve Earle toured the Cook Coal Terminal. He spoke highly of UMWA members who work at the plant in Metropolis.

“I was able to spend a lot of time with some of our members of Local Union 2463 when I toured the terminal and I cannot say enough good things about our membership working there,” Sanson said.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a better group of guys who work and maintain the daily operations at the terminal,” Earle said.

“Most of the members have been working there for over a decade so they have many years of experience.

“They are trained extensively in their job duties, they take pride in what they are doing, and they work hard every single day to make sure the operations run smoothly.”

Local Union President Jerry Stephens has been at the terminal for almost 21 years, the last 13 in maintenance.

“I am union through and through,” said Stephens.

“There’s no other way to say it except I love being a part of the union. Without the union, we wouldn’t be where we are today; the good salaries and the insurance. All of the benefits that the union fought for us to get, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. I can’t say enough about how good the union has been.”

Stephens knows the coal terminal inside and out and when anything needs to be repaired, he is ready to swing into action. Every repair, whether it is one of the rail cars, tug boats, or machinery, is done on-site by UMWA members at the plant.

“We have our own repair shop on site. Nothing gets shipped out for repairs. If it’s broke, we fix it right here in house,” Stephens said.

“Brother Jerry is extremely knowledgeable of everything that goes on at the terminal,” Sanson said. “All of the guys working at the plant are experts in everything they do. Their jobs are extremely important to the production, the maintenance, and the overall operations that make the coal terminal successful.”

Local Union Vice President Jason McNeill has been at the terminal for 16 ½ years. “I started out as a deckhand and currently, I’m a rail car mechanic,” said McNeill. “I was the safety chairman for about 15 years, and then I moved into my current position as vice president.

“The union has been such an asset for all of us working here,” said McNeill. “In 2017, we were in negotiations for a new contract for over seven months and without the union, I’m not sure we would have reached an agreement, but eventually we did. That’s part of what being in the union is all about, having someone to go to bat for you.”

Greg Basso, a deck hand and rail car mechanic has been on the safety committee most of his career and now serves as the Chairman of the Safety Committee.

“I’ve been here at the terminal for 15 years,” said Basso.

“I worked non-union before I came here, and I can tell you it is a world of difference.

“Being with the union, I don’t have to worry about safety issues because that is the number one thing the union takes pride in; making sure safety always comes first.

“I feel much more at ease knowing that the union will always fight for our safety on the job and for us to have better wages and benefits.”

The Cook Coal Terminal transfers coal between rail and barges. The coal is transported to the barges, stationed in the Ohio River, by tug boats.

AEP sold many of its boats over a decade ago due to the decline in the coal industry but the ones it kept were the ones supplying coal to the power plant in Rockport, Indiana, which comes from the Cook Coal Terminal.

“Our members at the coal terminal in Metropolis are very-skilled individuals,” said President Roberts.

“The work they do to make the daily operations successful is exceptional. From boat pilots to mechanics, to deckhands, all of these jobs require skill and extremely hard work.

“The UMWA is thankful to have such hard-working, dedicated members who take great pride in the jobs they do.”

MSHA’S New Silica Enforcement Initiative

On June 8, 2022, MSHA launched an enforcement initiative to conduct silica dust-related mine inspections and expand silica sampling in mines. The goal of the initiative is to limit miner’s exposures to respirable crystalline silica. The initiative has four components: inspections, sampling, compliance assistance and miners’ rights.

Workers can inhale silica dust during mining and other operations, including cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing materials, such as rock and stone. Silica can damage lung tissue and lead to lung disease, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or incurable silicosis. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust annually.

Under the initiative, MSHA will conduct spot inspections at coal and metal and nonmetal mines who have a history of repeated silica overexposures, while expanding silica sampling at mines and offering compliance assistance to mine operators.

“Coal Miners’ Pneumoconiosis or black lung cases have been on the rise among coal miners for several years now,” said Secretary-Treasurer Sanson. “Silica dust expo-sure has been proven to be the cause. As MSHA works to develop a new silica standard, they have launched this enforcement initiative aimed at boosting protections against silica as a bridge until the new rule is finalized.”

 

UMWA Applauds the Initiative

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Chris Williamson, attended the UMWA’s 56th Consecutive Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada in June and laid out the agency’s new enforcement initiative.

“MSHA will conduct spot inspections for silica at coal and metal and nonmetal mines in accordance with section 103(I) of the Mine Act,” said Williamson. “MSHA will collect respirable dust samples from occupations known to have a high-risk of exposures to silica,” William-son continued.

“And MSHA will reinvigorate efforts to educate miners about their rights to make hazardous conditions complaints and their protections against retaliation and discriminations.”

President Roberts and Secretary-Treasurer San-son thanked Williamson for speaking directly to the delegates at the convention and for spearheading the new enforcement initiative to reduce miner’s exposure to silica dust.

“More than a hundred thousand coal miners have lost their lives to the effects of black lung, and we have seen a significant rise in black lung cases amongst younger miners for several years now,” said President Roberts.

“It is good to know that MSHA is stepping up enforcement of silica exposure as it prepares a new rule for controlling silica dust,” Roberts continued. “We know what causes black lung and how to prevent this deadly disease from stealing the lives of our nation’s coal miners.”

In 2019, Roberts said in a statement, “We are seeing the most serious levels of black lung, mainly caused by silica, and there are no silica standards out there. We desperately need more.” Today, Roberts, along with Secretary-Treasurer Sanson, said the new enforcement initiative is a tremendous start in the right direction to protecting our nation’s coal miners from becoming gravely ill or even dying from exposures to silica dust.

 

Other Important Aspects of the Initiative

  • Increased oversight and enforcement of known silica hazards at mines with previous citations for exposing miners to silica dust levels over the existing permissible exposure limit of 100 micro-grams per cubic meter of air. For metal and non-metal miners in which the operator hasn’t abated hazards in a timely fashion, MSHA will issue a 104(b) withdrawal order until the overexposure hazard has been abated. For coal miners, the agency will encourage changes to dust control and ventilation plans to address known health hazards.
  • Reminding miners of their rights to report hazardous health conditions, including attempts to interfere with the sampling process.

WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital

On Saturday, September 24, 2022, West Virginia University Hospital opened its new and long-awaited children’s wing, WVU Hospital Children’s.

The facility holds 150 beds and provides care to seriously ill and injured children. Additionally, the private rooms will give parents opportunities to stay overnight with their admitted children.

WVU Medicine Children’s includes a heart wing named the “Cecil E. Roberts, United  Mine Workers of America WVU Children’s Heart Wing”. President Roberts was born in company housing in Cabin Creek, WV. He views this contribution as the UMWA’s continued commitment to the health care of working people and their families.

“This is a huge part of our mission in the labor movement and always has been,” said Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson.

“We are committed to providing and protecting health care for our members and their families. We hope no child ever needs this facility, but if they do, we’re proud to be part of providing that care.”