Monday, January 24, 2005

Beating Up on Miners

Kentucky miners Wendell and Coy McClain, brothers, and two other miners allegedly got fired for complaining about unsafe mining conditions and bad brakes on a coal scoop.

Not only that, a co-worker allegedly wrapped a steel cable around Coy McClain's neck and threatened to pull him through some machinery. The same miner is said to have theatened another complainant as well, for involving federal authorities.

Although the company denies the charges, some evidence must exist because both federal and state authorities have filed complaints on the miners' behalf. The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story at:

The article doesn't say which of Misty Mountain Coal Co.'s two small Kentucky mines was the site of the complaints, but the No. 4 Mine had more than 50 violations on its last regular federal inspection, quite a few for a 10-employee operation.

It's good to see that MSHA inspectors and investigators continue enforcing the law, even though the agency doesn't like to talk much about enforcement these days.

The publicity comes thanks to Wes Addington, a young public interest lawyer heading the newly reactivated Mine Safety Project of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Prestonsburg, Ky. The project had gone through a hiatus from lack of funding. Its founder, Tony Oppegard, served as an adviser to MSHA assistant secretary Davitt McAteer during the Clinton Administration, and is now with the Kentucky state mine safety program. One tradition Tony Oppegard established was that of publicizing cases of safety-related retaliation against miners. Adverse publicity may sometimes do as much to discourage lawbreaking as enforcement can do.

More on Wes Addington and the Mine Safety Project at


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