Kentucky Mine Safety Bill Gets Union's Support

The United Mine Workers of America's international president, Cecil E. Roberts, congratulated Kentucky legislators March 12 for passing an overhaul of the state's mine safety laws. "Today's passage by the Kentucky Legislature of sweeping mine safety legislation marks an historic and critically needed turning point for mine safety in the state of Kentucky and in our nation," Roberts said, according to a release posted by the union.

"The additional inspections required under this legislation are very important, and the UMWA urges the state to be rigorous in its inspection and enforcement activities. As critical as this legislation is for the safety of miners, it will mean nothing if the state doesn't follow through and enforce it," Roberts said. The bill passed both houses of the legislature over the weekend after "intense negotiations," and Gov. Ernie Fletcher has said he will sign it into law, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported yesterday. That article listed several changes made at the behest of coal companies in the bill's original language; for example, the bill originally said each miner would have a methane detector but now says each miner working alone and groups of two or more working in close proximity will have them, the newspaper reported.

Roberts thanked the families of coal miners who died in Kentucky and elsewhere in America in 2006, calling these relatives "vital spokespersons in the fight to improve mine safety. The widows from Harlan County and elsewhere provided a very real and needed perspective in this struggle. Without their voices and determination, this legislation may very well not have passed. Coal miners throughout Kentucky owe them a great debt of gratitude."

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