-by Dick Meister
June 14, 2011- A new study shows that unionization is a sure way to dramatically lessen the many deaths and serious injuries that have been all too common in the nation's coal mines.
That's the unequivocal conclusion of the independent study of coal mining between 1993 and 2008 conducted by Stanford law Professor Allson Morantz and funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
There's no doubting it: Workers in unionized mines are far less likely to be killed or seriously injured than are workers in nonunion mines.
The study indicates that the number of fatalities in individual nonunion mines can decline by one-third up to nearly three-fourths and serious injuries decline by as much as one-third if the mines unionize.
It's no coincidence, notes President Cecil Roberts of the United Mine Workers Union, that several major mine disasters recently were at nonunion mines. That includes the explosion at Massey Energies' Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners last year; the Crandell Canyon, Utah, blast that killed nine miners in 2007; and the Sago explosion in West Virginia in 2006 that killed 12.
"The simple truth," Roberts concludes, "is that union mines are safer mines, and this study proves that."
He gets ready agreement for that obvious truth from union leaders and members at all levels of the labor movement, right up to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He was a coal miner himself, as were his father and grandfather.
Trumka says he learned firsthand "the vital importance of workers having a voice on the job through their union."