1.) Despite a record of violations and injuries much higher than the average for coal mines of similar size, the mine’s owner paid just $24,000 in fines in the past two years—with most of the serious violations carrying a penalty of just $247 each—far from enough to force the company to change its practices.
2.) The Bush Administration and the Republican-led Congress has cut inspectors and worker safety programs from MSHA at a time when the coal industry is growing and more resources are needed to keep our miners safe. The 2006 budget passed by Congress cuts $4.9 million, after adjusting for inflation, from MSHA’s 2005 budget.
3.) The workers in the Sago Mine did not have a union to back them up when they raised safety concerns. As John Bennett, whose father was killed in the mine accident, said on NBC’s Today show yesterday:
“We have no protection for our workers. We need to get the United Mine Workers back in these coal mines to protect [against] these safety violations, to protect the workers....
“Now they got to work in unsafe conditions. That’s why we got 12 dead men laying in the morgue right now, along with my father.”