Union Says Shutdown May Be Cause of Mine Deaths

One union says the shutdown is endangering coal miners.
National Journal
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Alex Brown
Oct. 8, 2013, 8:42 a.m.

Is the gov­ern­ment shut­down re­spons­ible for the deaths of three miners? It’s a pos­sib­il­ity, ac­cord­ing to the United Mine Work­ers of Amer­ica.

“The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing each of these fatal­it­ies are dif­fer­ent, and I do not want to draw im­me­di­ate con­clu­sions as to their causes based on in­com­plete evid­ence at this time,” the uni­on’s pres­id­ent, Cecil Roberts, said in a state­ment. “But 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.”

Roberts went on: “The shut­down means that there are few­er mine in­spect­ors on the job…. [N]o reg­u­lar in­spec­tions are tak­ing place, even though they are re­quired by law. The gov­ern­ment’s watch­dog isn’t watch­ing. Safety vi­ol­a­tions that would nor­mally be caught and cor­rec­ted as a res­ult of those in­spec­tions are be­ing missed. Even the smal­lest vi­ol­a­tions, when al­lowed to ac­cu­mu­late, can lead to dan­ger­ous con­di­tions very quickly in a coal mine.”

Miners died Fri­day, Sat­urday, and Sunday in three sep­ar­ate in­cid­ents.

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