FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 1, 2021
[TRIANGLE, VA.] Today’s introduction of the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act in Congress will provide the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) a critical and vitally-needed tool to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 among America’s nearly 200,000 miners employed in the nation’s coal, metal and nonmetal mines, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) said today.
“An Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) at MSHA is long overdue, and should have been issued at the beginning of this pandemic,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said today. “You would think that the government agencies that are charged with protecting workers on the job would not have to be forced to do it. But that is where we find ourselves today.
“I welcome President Biden’s Executive Order directing MSHA to determine if an ETS should be issued, but that does not mean that the agency will do it,” Roberts said. “I fear that left to its own devices, MSHA will not take this needed action.
“This legislation will ensure that MSHA will issue such an order, enforce it and then make it permanent,” Roberts said. “I want to thank the bipartisan lawmakers in both houses of Congress who have come to the aid of miners, their families and their communities across America. I urge swift passage of this legislation.”
More than 500 UMWA miners have contracted the virus in the past 11 months. Many have been hospitalized, some have died. The extent of infection in nonunion mines is not known at this point, because MSHA is not keeping track. The UMWA represents about 30 percent of all active hourly coal miners in the United States.