The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Joe Main, shown in this photo from the Coal Tattoo blog, on Oct. 21.

New MSHA Chief Praised

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Joe Main Wednesday night, prompting the United Mine Workers' international president and U.S. Rep. George Miller to say a new day has begun for miners and MSHA.

Joe Main, nominated to be assistant secretary of Labor for mine safety and health on July 6 by President Obama, received unanimous U.S. Senate confirmation on Wednesday night. A mine safety consultant living in Spotsylvania, Va., when he was nominated, Main had worked for the United Mine Workers of America for 32 years, starting in 1974 as a special assistant to the international president, joining the union's Safety Division in 1976, and serving as a safety inspector, administrative assistant, and deputy director before serving as administrator of the UMWA Occupational Health and Safety Department from 1982 to 2004.

Current UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts issued a statement saying in part, "We congratulate Joe Main on the U.S. Senate's unanimous confirmation of him last night as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. We sincerely believe that Joe's long experience as an advocate for miners' health and safety on the job will bring a refreshing change to an agency that for too long has favored production over strong enforcement of workplace safety and health in America’s mines. The UMWA will continue to be the primary advocate for miners' health and safety. We understand that Joe has many challenges confronting him as he takes the helm, not least of which will be suspicion and confrontation from mine operators who are not used to vigorous enforcement of the law."

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, also applauded Main's confirmation, as did several people posting comments on the Charleston Gazette's Coal Tattoo blog written by Ken Ward Jr.

"I congratulate Joe Main's unanimous Senate confirmation as the next head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration," Miller said in a statement on his committee's site. "Main will be a tireless advocate for the health and safety of America's miners and bring a needed jumpstart to an agency that suffered from years of neglect. I look forward to working with him to ensure that our nation's miners return home to their loved ones safely at the end of each shift."

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