Study Finds Union Mines Safer, More Productive Than Nonunion

Once again, a study has shown that unionized coal mines are not only safer places to work than nonunion mines, but that union miners produce more coal. The study, by SNL Energy, found that in 2013 unionized mines in northern and central Appalachia produced about 94,091 tons of coal per injury versus 71,110 in nonunion mines, despite research suggesting that unionized miners are more likely to report injuries that have occurred on the job.

The SNL report notes that its findings follow a 2012 study authored by Stanford University labor regulation expert Alison Morantz and found that unionization is associated with a 13% to 30% drop in traumatic injuries and a 28% to 83% drop in fatalities in data from 1993 to 2010.

When it comes to production, union miners produced about 17% more coal per employee an hour than workers at nonunion mines in 2013 and 16% more last year.

In an article on the study on its website, Phil Smith, a spokesman for the Mine Workers (UMWA), told SNL Energy:

The union was formed 125 years ago by miners seeking to improve their pay and working conditions, including making the mines safer places to work. Those needs still exist today. [SNL Energy's] data demonstrates that union mines are safer mines; others have found similar results.

Both Smith and Tony Oppegard, a Kentucky attorney who specializes in mining laws and coal mine safety, pointed to the protections in a union contract, including the right to refuse unsafe work without retaliation and a worker-elected and empowered mine safety committee, as key factors in the better safety records at union mines. Oppegard said:

You work in a nonunion mine, you pretty much do what you’re told to do, including risking life and limb, or else you’re going to lose your job….At a nonunion mine, they don’t have that same cushion to try to resolve issues at the job site.

Read the full story here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Hunger Games Are Real

“The Hunger Games” are real. If you’re familiar with the books and movies, or have at least heard of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon, you’re probably aware that the series tackles some pretty serious issues of poverty and economic inequality that hit way too close to home. If you’re not, here’s some background.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in the fictional world of Panem, which is a dystopian North America sometime in the far off future. All the wealth in the country is concentrated in the Capitol and people in the 12 districts are constantly in fear of starvation. Everything the people in the districts produce, whether it is coal, grain, machinery or clothing, is controlled by the Capitol. People are forbidden to hunt or grow their own food, thus relying on the Capitol’s meager grain and oil rations. To punish the people of Panem for District 13′s rebellion (the Capitol wiped out the region in a nuclear war), each year two teenage tributes from each of the 12 districts must sacrifice their lives in an arena where they fight to the death, with only one victor remaining.

While the story is fictional, it reminds us of a lot of the issues surrounding economic inequality we see today. Some sobering facts:

  • Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%.
  • In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000.
  • Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950.
  • The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009. The tipped minimum wage, $2.13, hasn’t risen in two decades.
  • One in 6 people in America are hungry and 1 in 5 children are.

Check out 8 Ways Economic Inequality in America Is Like the “Hunger Games.”

“The Hunger Games” bestseller books and blockbuster films represent a rare opportunity where these issues of social and economic justice are being widely discussed in pop culture and in homes across the United States.

Check out this video from the Harry Potter Alliance:

Disclaimer: Having a union doesn’t guarantee no workplace injuries on the job, but union mines have 68% fewer fatal injuries than nonunion mines.

Working families, union members and leaders are joining the online movement to lift up these issues of economic inequality and poverty using the “Hunger Games” as a jumping off point. Check out oddsinourfavor.org, where you can join the “resistance” and post a photo doing the “salute,” the symbol of solidarity of the working people.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Peabody, Patriot Settle with UMWA on Retiree Health Care

After nearly a year of protests, rallies, marches and court battles demanding “Fairness at Patriot,” a settlement has been reached that will help cover future health care benefits for the retired coal miners affected by the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal.

The Mine Workers (UMWA) yesterday announced that it had reached a global settlement with Peabody Energy and Patriot that will provide more than $400 million to fund retiree health care costs through the Patriot Retirees Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA). Peabody will pay $310 million over four years while Patriot will provide the remainder through payments and production-based royalties.

UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said:

This is a significant amount of money that will help maintain health care for thousands of retirees who earned those benefits though years of labor in America’s coal mines. This settlement will also help Patriot emerge from bankruptcy and continue to provide jobs for our members and thousands of others in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody in 2007, and Peabody transferred the health care and other obligations of the former Peabody miners and retirees to Patriot. Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July 2012. In August, the UMWA reached a settlement with Patriot that restored many of the wage and benefit cuts Patriot instituted as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.

As part of the recent settlement, the union agreed to halt its months-long public relations and direct action effort related to Peabody in St. Louis and elsewhere regarding the effects of the Patriot Coal bankruptcy. Miners and their allies had held several huge marches and rallies at Peabody’s St. Louis headquarters and elsewhere.

Several thousand of Patriot retirees worked for Magnum Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal that Patriot acquired in 2008. Arch Coal, like Peabody, was accused of ducking its health care and other obligations of those miners by transferring them to the subsidiary. Arch Coal has yet to settle with the union, and Roberts said:

Arch still can step up and meet its obligation to these retirees. We will continue to encourage them to do so in the coming days.

Roberts said while the settlement with Peabody and Patriot is significant, it does not provide the level of funding needed to maintain health care for these retirees forever.

That is why we are continuing our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress that will put these retirees under the Coal Act, meaning their long-term health care benefits would be secured at no additional cost to taxpayers.

H.R. 2918, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), has 24 co-sponsors from both parties; and S. 468, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), has six co-sponsors.

Photo by Missouri AFL-CIO on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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