UMWA Members Back on the Hill: Silica Dust Kills



On June 30, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a proposal by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to amend current federal standards to better protect the nation’s miners from health hazards related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. The proposed rule change would ensure miners have the same protections as workers in other industries. The proposed draft rule would cut allowable silica dust levels in half. It has taken more than two decades to get a draft of new silica limits to the White house for review.

Fast forward four months, in a gut-wrenching, heartless move to every working miner in our country, Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill, H.B. 5894, for the Department of Labor. The amendment would strip funding for the pending regulation. In his amendment, the Congressman asked that no money for the Department of Labor be spent enforcing new silica standards during the current 2023/2024 fiscal year. When asked by a reporter what blocking implementation of MSHA’s new rules would mean for coal miners, Representative Perry replied, “What coal miners?” The White House released a statement opposing the bill because it would also make cuts to education and health.

“Representative Perry and others in Congress have the power in their hands to support regulatory changes that will keep workers safe and healthy,” said President Roberts.

“Congressman Perry and anyone else who agrees with his misguided amendment, must be living in the dark about the critical needs of tens of thousands of their constituents. I have said many times before, elections have consequences. The UMWA will support candidates that support us, and Congressman Perry is anything but that,” Roberts said.


UMWA Members Back on Capitol Hill Reminding Congress That Silica Dust Kills


On December 5, 2023, more than a dozen UMWA members, proudly dressed in their camo shirts, walked the halls of Congress reminding Congressmen and women that silica dust kills, and we must not let elected officials strip away protections of the nation’s coal miners.

Local Union 1247 member Tim McCoy, one member who seized the opportunity to educate those in Congress, said, “They have never had to see a family member or a friend struggle with black lung. They don’t understand and, quite frankly, I don’t think they care what it does to a person.”

Local 2300 member Tony Rosky, who has been on Capitol Hill more than a dozen times in the past decade, knows all too well how things happen in Washington. “I was in D.C. too many times to count when we were fighting for the preservation of our pensions and health care. It was important to lobby with my fellow brothers and sisters because people are dying from black lung disease. Congress needs to understand that. I want to help any way I can,” said Rosky.

“Silica dust is more hazardous to the human body than coal dust. Cases of black lung that are commonly linked to silica exposure, have more than doubled in the past 15 years,” said President Roberts.

“The UMWA has advocated for and strongly welcomed MSHA’s announcement this past summer that it would put in place new requirements aimed at significantly cutting the allowable level of silica dust exposure in coal mines. The Agency has also called for improving mine ventilation to ensure the minimization of the spray of silica dust. They have done a lot of good things for miners, but there is a snag.

“MSHA needs approval from Congress to fund the implementation of new regulations. As we see more and more miners fall ill to silica dust, some in Congress are defying common sense and decency by blocking funding for MSHA’s proposed fixes. We cannot allow that to happen,” Roberts said.


Please note a retraction from the 2023 September/October UMW Journal: the UMWA did not endorse Geno Gallo (D-PA) for Allegheny Fayette County Commissioner.