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   The usual thing to mention when it comes to unions is how much better a union job is because of higher pay, real benefits and some security. What we often forget is how unions save lives.

   We take for granted that when we breathe air not filled with asbestos or some other deadly chemicals, that's a union that made sure buildings had safe conditions.

    We don't remember that we eat safer food because of unions--because unions made sure that there were clearer and better conditions in fields that grow our food and plants that process our food.

    And here is a study that just came across my desk this week about miners entitled, "Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference?" by Alison D. Morantz at Stanford Law School. I know this will shock you but the upshot:

...unionization predicts a sizable and robust decline in both traumatic injuries and fatalities, the two safety outcomes that I argue are least prone to reporting bias. I construe these results as evidence for a “real” union safety effect in U.S. underground coal mining. At the same time, I find that unionization predicts higher total and non-traumatic injuries, lending credence to claims that injury reporting practices differ significantly between union and nonunion mines.

    This should not be too surprising. Think of what a union would have meant to the 29 miners who were killed in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine when it exploded in 2010. As the independent inquiry reported:

The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk-taking.[emphasis added]

   As the president of the Mineworkers, Cecil Roberts, points out:

As Americans - and especially coal miners - learn about the causes of tragedies like that at the Upper Big Branch mine, one of the things that stands out is that Upper Big Branch, like the other mines where disasters have occurred since 2006, was a non-union mine. The simple truth is that union mines are safer mines, and this study proves that.

Miners have long known that there is a union 'safety effect,' as the study calls it. 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.

   Unions don't allow coal companies--or any other company--to operate in a reckless manner because unions are concerned about lives, not profit.

   Something to remember in an era when the Scott Walkers of the world seek to wipe off the map the only institution that keeps some measure of safety at work.

Originally posted to Tasini on Fri May 27, 2011 at 07:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

    Visit Working Life.

    by Tasini on Fri May 27, 2011 at 07:29:23 AM PDT

  •  How timely this is (7+ / 0-)

    I attended a labor panel discussion last night, and two labor leaders were discussing this very issue.  They stated that one of their biggest challenges is educating those who are new to the trade about how much has been done to get safety standards where they are today, and convincing them that this is not something that just happened by chance and it is something that needs to be improved going forward.

    One labor leader from the Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council talked about walking through downtown and looking at buildings....remembering his brothers and sisters who were injured, and in some cases died, building those structures.

    Another man from the United Steel Workers talked about his friends that have been lost over the years in accidents on the job.

    Both gave very powerful testimony.  

    I'd rather die than give you control ~ Trent Reznor

    by JustJennifer on Fri May 27, 2011 at 07:43:16 AM PDT

  •  The corps don't care about saving lives-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    especially those of workers and consumers. Plenty more of those where they came from.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Fri May 27, 2011 at 10:15:59 AM PDT

  •  And this is why Republicans hate unions. (0+ / 0-)

    And accessible, affordable healthcare. And safe food. They want us dead.

    "This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it." -- Keith Olbermann

    by allergywoman on Fri May 27, 2011 at 11:11:48 AM PDT

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