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1/23/2006

ICG Circumventing the Law with Sago Petition

Source: UMWA

The news that the International Coal Group (ICG) is signing up employees at the Sago mine in Upshur County, West Virginia to a company-sponsored petition “only compounds the tragedy at that mine,” United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts said today.

“It is our understanding that this petition was an initiative of ICG management,” Roberts said.

“This is yet another frantic attempt by ICG to circumvent the law in this matter and we call on the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the West Virginia Office and Mine Health, Safety and Training to investigate this action by ICG management.

“It is simply astonishing that ICG would go to such lengths to impede the investigation into what happened at Sago,” Roberts said. “I ask again: What are they afraid of?

“The only thing that we are focused on is finding out what happened to cause the explosion at Sago so that such an event never happens again–at Sago or at any other mine,” Roberts said. “That’s what the UMWA wants, that’s what MSHA wants, that’s what the state wants and that’s what the American people want.

“Despite this, ICG management has placed roadblocks at every turn in the path of this critical investigation in ways that do not comply with the laws and regulations of the United States,” Roberts said.

“The fact remains that several miners at Sago have requested–and continue to request–UMWA representation in the investigation of this tragedy,” Roberts said. “That is their right under MSHA regulations, and both MSHA and the state have formally recognized the UMWA as the representative of the Sago miners in this investigation.

“We will not abandon them, nor will we abandon the families of the miners who died there,” Roberts said. “It is unconscionable for ICG to compound their suffering by continuing its attempts to muddy the waters of this investigation.”

UMWA Statement on Aracoma Alma #1 Tragedy

Source: UMWA

“Our hearts and our prayers are with the families, friends and neighbors of Don Bragg and Ellery Hatfield, brave coal miners who lost their lives in the fire at the Aracoma Alma #1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia. We stand ready to offer any assistance to them and their communities we possibly can.

“In the wake of this tragedy and the explosion at the Sago mine in Upshur County nearly three weeks ago, we strongly support the calls of our political leaders for immediate action to improve the chances of miners surviving situations like these. It is incumbent upon Congress and the state legislatures to take whatever steps they need to take to make sure our federal and state mine safety agencies strictly enforce existing safety rules and regulations in our nation’s mines. We must also develop new initiatives that will give every miner a vastly improved chance to walk out of a mine after an accident, alive and well and safe in the arms of their loved ones.

“Just as we have done for 116 years, the UMWA will continue to be in the forefront of this fight. We cannot let the sacrifices of these miners and their families to be in vain.”

1/20/2006

UMWA offers "any assistance we can give" in response to Aracoma Alma Mine #1 fire

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

"Once again, coal miners' families in West Virginia anxiously await word about their loved ones trapped underground. Our hearts and our prayers are with them as the mine rescue teams work to reach the miners who are unaccounted for at the Aracoma Alma Mine #1 in Logan County.

"The Aracoma Alma Mine #1 is under the control of Massey Energy and, like the Sago mine in Upshur County, is a non-union mine. But it does not matter whether they are members of the UMWA or not-these are brother coal miners trapped underground.

"The UMWA stands ready to respond in any way we possibly can. Upon hearing about this fire early this morning, I immediately dispatched a representative of the UMWA to the scene to assist in any way that is appropriate.

"Let us all pray that these miners are found, safe and sound, as soon as possible. We also pray that the mine rescue teams who are working to find them remain safe as they risk their lives to perform this rescue operation."

1/18/2006

Sago miners have the right to ask for UMWA representation in investigation

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

"The International Coal Group (ICG) has objected to the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) representing the miners at the Sago mine as theinvestigation into the causes of this tragedy gets underway. What theirstatements fail to point out is that miners at the Sago mine have a right todesignate the UMWA as their representative, and the union has a right toparticipate in the investigation under federal law."

Federal regulations developed to implement the Mine Safety and Health Actpermit the UMWA to represent the miners at any mine if two or more of themdesignate us to represent them on safety issues. That has happened in thiscase. We are not 'manipulating' anything–we are fulfilling ourresponsibility under the MSHA regulations and we will continue to do so tothe best of our ability.

"ICG may not like the law, and they may not like the fact that their employees have designated the UMWA as their representative in thisinvestigation. But that does not change the fact that the law is what it is.Just because ICG doesn't like the law doesn't give them license to trample it."

The fact is that the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)recognizes our right to be party to the investigation, as does the state ofWest Virginia, and they have both said so in writing. They do not view ourparticipation as interference in the investigation. The only party who does is ICG, leading one to ask: Why? What do they fear?

"It's interesting to note that the very first thing ICG did this morning aspart of the interview process that is taking place in Clarksburg was toattempt to get the identities of the miners who designated the UMWA as theirrepresentative. MSHA did not release their identities, nor will we. But thebigger questions are: Why do they need to know that, and what would they do with that information if they did know it?"It seems to us that ICG's priorities have shifted from seeking to determine the true cause of this accident and means for preventing similar occurrences,' to trying to find out which of their employees had the courage to want representation from an independent organization with 116 yearsexperience of working to improve safety and health in all of America'smines, whether we represent the workers or not.

"This investigation is about finding out the truth. If the company hasnothing to hide, it should favor an open investigation with all partiesparticipating fully."

1/11/2006

UMWA PRESIDENT HAILS STATE, CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS INTO SAGO DISASTER

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E.Roberts said today that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s announcementyesterday of a state investigation into the Sago disaster “is a first stepin the right direction of improving coal mine safety in the wake of thisterrible disaster.”

Roberts applauded Gov. Manchin’s selection of Davitt McAteer to head theWest Virginia investigation, saying, “Mr. McAteer has the experience toundertake this critical investigation, and the UMWA believes he has thedetermination to pursue this investigation wherever it may lead. That’sexactly what is needed here.”

The state investigation will be held in conjunction with the U.S. MineSafety and Health Administration (MSHA). MSHA and Gov. Manchin announcedyesterday that the investigation will include a public hearing, which is ararity in coal mine accident investigations.

“The public hearing can be a beneficial part of this investigation,” Roberts miners to know as a result of this investigation is that mine safety andhealth regulations will be strictly enforced at every mine in the UnitedStates. MSHA and the state mine safety agencies must view these regulationsas requirements for companies to follow, not mere suggestions.”

Roberts also said that the announcement by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.)that a U. S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing nextweek on the disaster “will help us all understand what happened at thismine, so that we can do whatever needs to be done to ensure that no familywill ever again have to go through what the families of the Sago miners hadto endure.“

Sen. Byrd, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chair of the subcommittee andSen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), the ranking member, all have a long-term commitmentto coal miners and their health and safety,” Roberts said. “I haveconfidence that with them taking the lead, we will get answers and we willbegin the process of working towards real, enforceable solutions.”

Roberts added that it is critical for the UMWA to be an integral part ofboth the state and congressional inquiries. “We have the expertise andexperience within our union to make a significant contribution to theinvestigation and the recommendations that come out of this. Our Director ofOccupational Health and Safety, Dennis O’Dell, has years of experience withmine safety issues and was on-site at the Sago mine during the rescueefforts while our UMWA mine rescue teams were involved. There is no onebetter qualified to be a strong voice for the safety of miners during thisinvestigation than Dennis.”

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1/04/2006

Stunning reversal - just one Sago miner made it out alive

Click to Listen To Audio

Source: Workers Independent News

Statement of United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts on the tragedy at the Sago Mine

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E.Roberts issued the following statement today:

We are deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy that befell the Sago miners.Our hearts and our prayers go out to the miners’ families, their loved onesand their communities. We are also praying for the full recovery of Mr.Randal McCloy, Jr., and for his family and friends. We continue to offer ourassistance to the entire community to help in any way we can.

This terrible event was made worse for the families by the inexplicableconfusion regarding initial reports that twelve of the miners had been foundalive. That the families were allowed to believe for three hours that theirloved ones were alive–when in fact only Mr. McCloy was–is inexcusable. The UMWA strongly encourages the appropriate state and federal officials toinvestigate how this could have happened, so that no family will ever have to suffer like this again.

This tragedy affects every coal miner in America, union and non-union alike.Though not members of the UMWA, the miners who work in the Sago mine includeneighbors and relatives of UMWA members. I want to commend the brave membersof the mine rescue teams, especially those from the UMWA-represented mineswho risked their lives to go into the mine. Their efforts demonstrate onceagain that we are all brothers and sisters in the coal fields, and we pulltogether to help each other in times like these.