Friday, June 03, 2011

Does a union make a mine safer? You bet your life it does

Miners in unionized coal mines are far less likely to be killed or injured on the job than miners in nonunion operations. That’s the conclusion of a new study conducted by Stanford University law professor Alison D. Morantz and funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“Unionization predicts an 18 to 44 percent drop in traumatic injuries and a 27 to 68 percent drop in fatalities,” Professor Morantz writes in his May 19 paper titled “Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference?”

The study used a comprehensive database and updated methodology to examine the relationship between unionization and underground, bituminous coal mine safety from 1993 to 2008.

“Miners have long known there is a union ‘safety effect,’ as the study calls it,” Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said. “Working in a union-represented mine, with the backing of our Local Union safety committees and our International Union safety experts, makes a huge difference.”

Tragedies have happened at UMWA represented mines, most recently nearly ten years ago, in Brookland, Ala., Roberts pointed out. “We in the UMWA learned hard lessons, in that tragedy and others that preceded it. We took steps to provide better protection for our members, and this study shows that those steps are working.”

Morantz’ 35-page paper is available from the Social Science Research Network at

Full disclosure: In solidarity with the world’s miners, I’ve joined the United Mineworkers of America as an associate member.

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