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‘We’re tired of miners dying in unsafe mines’
Union members march against Massey
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 21      May 31, 2010


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(lead article)
‘We’re tired of miners
dying in unsafe mines’
Union members march against Massey
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Miners and supporters demonstrate against Massey Energy outside Jefferson Hotel during annual shareholders’ meeting in Richmond, Virginia, May 18.

May 18—Some 1,000 coal miners and other workers from various unions marched through downtown Richmond, Virginia, and rallied outside the hotel where Massey Energy Co. was holding its annual shareholders meeting today. The action was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to protest the deaths of 29 miners in a massive explosion at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, April 5, the worst mining disaster in the United States in 40 years.

UMWA members, retirees, and others came by bus from seven states, including West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah, to participate in the action.

“We’re tired of miners dying in unsafe mines,” Tanya James, a 50-year-old miner from Elk Garden, West Virginia, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. At a vigil and protest attended by hundreds of workers yesterday, she and 51 other miners jointly turned on their helmet lights to commemorate the 52 miners killed in Massey-owed mines since 2000.

“It all comes down to Massey Energy putting profit over people,” Charles Suggs, who traveled to the meeting from Rock Creek, West Virginia, told the Associated Press. “This is not purely a Massey issue. This is a coal industry-wide issue.”

In the meeting, Massey CEO Donald Blankenship praised the company’s safety record, saying its rate of nonfatal accidents “had fallen by 90 percent under his stewardship from 1992 to 2010,” the Wall Street Journal reported. He asserted that the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine “will make the company safer.”

Miners in the United States are not alone in fighting for safe conditions so that no miner has to die. In Russia, miners and other working people have organized protest actions in response to the May 8 explosions at the Raspadskaya mine. The blasts killed 66 miners and injured 129. Another 24 miners are missing.

Some 200 miners and others conducted a sit-in May 14 on railroad tracks in the city of Mezhdurechensk in Siberia where the mine is located to protest unsafe working conditions and demand higher wages instead of pay based on financial incentives tied to production. A busy rail line was “barricaded for three hours,” reported the Moscow News, an online newspaper.

Cops attacked the protesters. Workers fought back, pelting the police with stones and bottles. Twenty-eight demonstrators were detained and 17 policemen injured, according to the New York Times.

In response, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin intervened with a public rebuke to the mine’s management. He also called for increasing miners’ wages and expanding the powers of the state safety inspectors to include temporarily shutting mines and dismissing mine officials, the Times reported.
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