Improving Health and Safety for Modern Miners a Priority for UMWA

Source: America’s Workforce Radio

January 1, 2024



Happy New Year’s Day! Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast and discussed the Warrior Met Strike in Alabama, outdated protective equipment for miners, and the dangers of silica dust.

Roberts began by detailing the two-year Warrior Met Strike in Alabama. He said the coal company was the target of many protests because management did not try to negotiate for a Collective Bargaining Agreement. Roberts called the company anti-union and discussed why the miners were forced to return to work. He noted the UMWA invested about $35 million into the strike. Once the company succeeded in getting individuals back to work, Warrior Met unsuccessfully attempted to dismantle the union. This plan ended up backfiring on the employers who claimed no involvement, Roberts said. 

Roberts then spoke about silica dust, which has affected a large number of young miners, who have developed “black lung disease.” He explained how the dust is created by equipment that cuts through rock and puts silica dust into the air, which is then inhaled by the miners. When the dust is inhaled for an extended period through outdated safety equipment, workers get sick. He noted the only cure for “black lung” is a lung transplant. Sadly, he added that Congress has blocked the implementation of a new silica dust rule.

Finally, Roberts discussed the use of outdated protective equipment. He explained how the masks that miners wear put them at risk of suffocation and death due to multiple breathing hazards. Roberts urged the public to fight against a Congressional plan to end needed safety funding and introduce new bills to implement better health and safety measures for miners. The industry is in a decline because workers die from a disease they contract at the workplace, Roberts said. He added that coal companies need to make sure workers are not allowed to enter an area until silica dust is at safe levels.

For more updates on the UMWA and President Roberts, listen to the episode above.

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