Labor Speaks Out Against Three Coal Mining Deaths Amid Government Shutdown

Workers in the U.S. coal mining industry have a message for Congress: “while you’re squabbling, workers are dying.”

Three U.S. coal miners have died on the job since the federal government shut down on October 1. Congress’ impasse over the budget has led to the furlough of some 800,000 federal workers – including much-needed inspectors responsible for ensuring mine safety.

The Associated Press is reporting this is the first time the mining industry has recorded three deaths in three days since 2002.

“It is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead,” said Cecil E. Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). “The government’s watchdog isn’t watching. The shutdown means that there are fewer mine inspectors on the job. Those who are working are either keeping an eye on operators and mines with a history of mine safety and health problems, or responding to special situations. But no regular inspections are taking place, even though they are required by law.”

“Safety violations that would normally be caught and corrected as a result of those inspections are being missed,” continued Roberts. “Even the smallest violations, when allowed to accumulate, can lead to dangerous conditions very quickly in a coal mine.”

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