Sunday, April 3, 2011

It has been 1 year has anything changed in the Coal Mines? No it has not

Yet another terrible Coal Mine Tragedy
Why was this mine allowed to operate?
With all the violations it piled up.

When I travel down to West Virginia on Interstate 79 while traveling thru Greene County on the North Bound side on my return trip there is a Road Side Rest and Pa. Welcome Center which has a small area of display cases filled with all kinds of neat Coal mining memorabilia but there is also a very large black marble stone memorial as well many never stop to notice
And walk right past it. Not knowing several hundred feet below there feet this memorial commemorates a tragedy on December 6th of 1962- when 37 Coal Miners lost there lives in the US Steel Robena Mine Explosion.
Just one of a long list of mine tragedies in Pa. which over the last 100 plus years has cost 1000s of men and even young boys there lives. Some of these miners remains where never recovered from these explosions and are still entombed some where in the mines. But the worst tragedies and biggest loss of lives has been in West Virginia coal mine fields which like Pa. have a history of Rich Overbearing Coal Barons marred by tragedy and violence which came with those coal fields.
History has once again played out as the sirens whale and a vigil is being held at the
Upper Branch Coal mine in Montcoal W.Va. Owned by the Massey Energy company which has had a long history of coal mining violations and labor issues. So far 24 miners are confirmed dead and 4 are still being searched for after a major explosion. That may have been caused by a Methane Gas Build up which is one of the many threats to miners they face every time they put on there gear and start to work down the long dark coal shafts
Cut and scraped by machines hundreds of feet under ground.
Much has been done and researched to make coal mining as safe as possible but some times accidents like roof falls and equipment malfunctions still happen, despite the best efforts to prevent it.
Many occupations like Steel worker, Skilled Tradesman, Construction worker ,First Responder all have there dangers despite all the safety regulations and protective equipment accidents can and will happen you have to keep this in the back of your mind all the time to stay safe.
It is the risk you take if you want to make good money and raise a family and not have a 4 year or higher college degree.
But no matter how safe you work you have to rely on the employer and he guy beside you to make sure you and he come home after every shift. This is where problems can and do happen when rules are disregarded.
There are mines which have operated continuously for almost 100 years and never had an explosion or serious tragedy yet there are others with long track records of them.
And thankfully with advances in mining allowing less workers to do more we do not see the big hundred plus deaths like we saw in late 1800’s and early 1900’s most mines today can operate with 50 or less miners per shift. And there are no more young boys allowed to work who typically worked as shakers, greasers, door operators and mule /pony drivers.
At one time boys as young as 12 worked in the mines 12 hrs a day 7 days a week to help feed there families.
Especially when a father became ill, or was killed in the mine and he could no longer provide for the family. We also no longer have the Coal and Iron Police which protected the Coal Barons Mines and property with threats and intimidation.
There is no more company stores where a miners wages where spent providing minimally to the family after deductions for the rent for the house they lived in the tools he used and blasting powder he used each day. There have been no riots where coal company guards shot and killed people or maimed them. Like what happened in Matewan W.Va. in 1920 or Moorefield Pa. Those days are over with the strong Coal mining unions and Labor laws have eliminated those bad old days and there are no more Coal Barons like Henry Clay Frick that left behind an environmental mess of streams and creeks running orange from iron and acid and ruined land. Today responsible mine owners clean up there properties and filter mine water and drainage .Plus they make sure there employees are safe.
But this is not always the case. Some mining companies are willing to put production ahead of safety and when this happens everyone is at risk. In some companies it becomes part of the culture and this is when it is time to shut down and make mines conform or never reopen or sell it to some one who will run it correctly.
I have heard it time and again workers complain about this and that work place being dangerous and not properly run yet they still go to work each day regardless to provide for there families because there is no other work available and these are the same stories we are hearing coming out of this tragedy as well.
The mine owners claim they do everything they can to make things right the mine inspectors say no they do not and round and round the fingers are pointed and once again
The politicians are getting ready to conduct hearings on the matter and once again nothing will be done to stop the problems in W.Va. Coal mines.
Once again we are hearing all the redirect we heard after the Sago mine tragedy when 12 miners died a couple of years back and improvements and new laws where suppose to stop what happened at Upper Branch mine. So what went wrong? Hopefully we will know and learn from it after MSHA conducts a complete investigation.
In the mean time we can only speculate.
I know myself there are job sites and companies I have refused to work for and I have even had Jobsites shut down and things corrected ,but I have done so at a terrible personnel cost.
But I refuse to work with slobs while others just keep there mouths shut and say and does nothing like scared little rabbits. They help to contribute to the culture of danger and uncaring that gets people killed.
So why do more people not speak up and demand things are fixed and done right it is because that’s what they have been taught by others around them to shut up and just keep doing your job it’s the intimidation factor that scares men from speaking up ,and Bosses and owners know it. It’s the old Bogey man in the closet syndrome.
Plus the fact there is always those who are ready to step in and take your job from you.
They are commonly known in the labor world as Scabs.
So as you can see it is a complicated issue, but until those who work the coal mines demand better conditions where they work from owners and government Coal mining will
Continue to be a dangerous occupation and be paid nothing more than lip service by politicians. It is time to stop the culture of Death and Danger in these mines.
We know how to run them safe and we know what the problems are.
But will we No. a hundred years from now the same horrific headlines will still be seen and heard and same bullshit from politicians.

Note: On the Spike TV Channel a new show called Coal which shows the daily struggles in a low coal mine in W. Virgina is now showing. Wednesday nites at 10PM

No comments:

Post a Comment