« PreviousContinue »
masses of cable, his job is to make sure that the ventilation is properly conducted. There are many things that the foreman must do to insure the safety of the people who are mining the coal. But the supervisory forces of all your coal companies do contract work and when they come out of the mine they are dirtier than the men who are supposed to be doing this work. This is one point that I wanted to bring out because I think this is the thing that is hurting a lot of our miners, the supervisory forces are negligent.
Mr. YABLONSKI. One of the things brought out in my discussion with these men, and they can talk about it better than anything else, is that, there is a poor guy that is caught in the middle that most people don't really know about and that is the section boss. He is an employee of the company but, boy, they ride him hard to get production.
Senator SCHWEIKER. Where does he fit in the structure of authority ? Is he over the foreman, under the foreman?
Mr. TRBOVICH. The section foreman is the immediate supervisor on the section where the coal is being mined. Then there is a mine foreman, the general mine foreman that has the say over top of all the section foremen. Then you have a mine superintendent. The first thing that the mine foreman asks the assistant mine foreman when he comes out is “How many cars of production did you get?” This is what they talk about. If he gets only 30 wagons of coal, this is not too good. Šo, he has to get more coal. So when he goes into the mine in the first place the units are shorthanded. On a continuous miner you have five men mining coal. If one man is off, then this boss has to double up for him. He has to do a lot of his work because they don't have the extra men to go ahead and fill in. This is why I say at the Robena mine at that time we understand that the foreman was being paid a bonus for high production. This is one of the reasons why this happened there because the foreman was negligent, he was doing other work he should not have been doing instead of doing his work and checking the air, checking the conditions, and watching the massive cables in the mine at the time. This is being practiced throughout the industry. The Republic Steel Corp., I worked there for approximately 20 years, and the superintendent in a period of 4 or 5 years fired 53 bosses. This was all over production, because they could not produce coal, they could not get the coal. A lot of these foremen believed in safety. They believed in the safety of the miner but when he came out with 10 and 15 cars of coal he didn't last too long. They fired him.
This is one of the important things that has caused a lot of people to get hurt, that is causing unsafe conditions in the mines. They have no business doing this work. They are not covered by contract and our union doesn't take any position on it. Our union doesn't take a position on anything. The only thing that our union tells us when we go out on strike, "Go back to work." In the recent strike of June 21 the district 4 president of the United Mine Workers got on the radio Senator Williams. This is the Pennsylvania strike?
Mr. TROBVICH. Right. Had an ad on the radio. "It is an unauthorized strike. Go to work."
We were accused in the court room in Federal court of troublemakers and deceiving the court. We resented that because a safety issue was involved.
No one can tell a coal miner himself to go into a mine when he knows that it is not safe. This, I think, I stated in court. The district
organizers, the people who work for the United Mine Workers, went around, took all the names of the pickets, broke up our picket line. The U.S. marshal worked overtime. At midnight he had 72 subpenas to serve yet. Some people who are not even involved on this picket line were subpenaed.
In court the $40,000-a-year attorney of the United Mine Workers made a deal with the steel company attorneys that the injunction be placed on the local union and the men. In the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia this same $40,000-a-year attorney said that the mines were sa fe. And in Pittsburgh agreed with everything that the judge said and what the coal and steel companies had said. We pay this man his salary from our dues money, yet they make a deal with the steel company attorneys to place the injunction on the local union and the men when a safety issue is involved.
The safety issue that was involved was over the 200 hazardous mines which we got from the Bureau of Mines. The Miners for Democracy paid for the printing of this list. I think you are aware of the law which states that any mine liberating a hundred thousand cubic feet of methane is considered a hazardous mine.
In my area all the mines are hazardous. They not only produce hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of methane but millions at my mine alone, my mine liberates 4 million cubic feet of methane in one 24-hour shift.
Senator SCHWEIKER. On that point, on the methane mine, my amendment covered the inspections. What kind of on-the-spot inspections
Mr. TRBOVICH. Getting to that, Senator-in my area all the mines are considered hazardous that liberate millions of methane: Isabelle, National Mining Corp.; Mine 51, Bethlehem Steel Corp.; Mine 60, Bethlehem Corp.; Mine No. 4, Pittsburgh Coal; Westland, Pittsburgh Coal; Mathies Coal Co., Warwick, Duquesne Light, Warwick 3, Duquesne Light; Warwick No. 2, Duquesne Light; Vesta 4 and 5, J. & L.
Senator WILLIAMS. Do we have that coal list that you prepared ? Mr. Y ABLONSKI. Yes: it is in. (The document referred to appears at p. 328.)
Mr. TRBOVICH. The strike of June 21 was because the Bureau of Mines was not enforcing the new mine sa fety bill which requires a spot inspection of all of these hazardous mines every 5 days. The Bureau themselves, Henry Wheeler in his office, admitted to myself and to Mr. Yablonski and several representatives from the West Virginia districts that they were not complying with that law.
Senator SCHWEIKER. Now they are claiming they are doing it once every 15 days. Are they hitting that schedule in your mines, once every 3 weeks?
Mr. TRBOVICH. Honestly I can't say, but I do know they are not inspecting every 5 days. This strike on June 21 was triggered by this lack of enforcement of the new mine safety bill. The union with the steel companies and the courts of the United States forced us back into the mines, which they had no right to do.
They have no right to force us in a coal mine when it is unsafe but they did. Is I said before the district people, the United Mine Workers accused us as being troublemakers and deceiving the courts. This is the type of representation that we have.
Senator SCHWEIKER. I am not clear on one point. I think one of you brought out earlier that under the present contract your mine safety committee of three members can shut down a mine if it is unsafe. Is that accurate?
Mr. TRBOVICH. Yes, Senator.
Senator SCHWEIKER. In the areas where you have had wildcat strikes or you had conditions that you felt were unsafe, what position did the mine safety committee in those cases take? In other words, where is the problem here?
You have a mine safety committee, and you have wildcat strikes.
Mr. YABLONSKI. Frequently they don't use that because there is another provision in the contract that says if they are wrong in calling a strike, then they can be fired.
Senator SCHWEIKER. In what?
Mr. YABLONSKI. If they are wrong in closing down a mine, they can be fired. So there has developed a sort of ad hoc system of staying really outside the contract, because the men don't feel that they get the kind of backing in a grievance case that is necessary to insure their staying on the job.
Now we talked of some instances where gentlemen have been fired. I don't know whether the mineworkers maintain statistics on how frequently that provision of the contract is invoked or how frequently people are fired.
Senator SCHWEIKER. You say if they are wrong in making a determination, they can be fired under the contract ?
Mr. YABLONSKI. That's right.
Mr. YABLONSKI. I don't have it with me, but the section of the contract, if I understand the language, is that if a dangerous condition exists, the safety committee has the authority to go to management and to ask that the mine be closed.
In practice it has worked out that the safety committee tells the management it is closing the mine. Right in the same section if he is wrong, if he is found to be wrong, that that condition is not dangerous, then the company will fire him, and they fire him and they litigate the propriety or the validity of his safety complaint in a grievance case.
Senator SCHWEIKER. That is a sort of "heads you win, tails I lose” situation. I would like to see that section.
Mr. TRBOVICH. It is in here, Senator.
Was that the section they used to fire the three men in district 6? Was that the technique they used there? You recommend what happened in district 6 and the three men were fired after a wildcat strike ?
Mr. TRBOVICH. The safety committee said it was unsafe. The company said it wasn't. The mine went on strike, so they fired the safety committee.
Mr. YABLONSKI. The problem we are getting into is that we are dealing second and third-hand. One of the rumors I heard was that the Bureau of Mines enforced the position taken by the men that the mine was, in fact, unsafe.
Senator SCHWEIKER. The Interior Department backed up the men in District 6?
Mr. YABLONSKI. That's right. I have the section of the contract.
Senator SCHWEIKER. I would like to hear it.
Mr. YABLONSKI. It says: "In those special instances where the committee believes that imminent immediate danger exists and the committee recommends that the management remove all the mine workers from the unsafe area, the operator is required to follow the recommendations of the committee.
"If the Safety Committee closes down an unsafe area arbitrarily and capriciously, members of such committee may be removed from the committee. Grievances that arise as a result or request for removal of the Safety Committee under this section shall be handled in accordance with provisions providing for settlement of disputes."
Senator SCHWEIKER. Who makes the judgment whether they act capriciously and who decides he can be removed ?
Mr. YABLONSKI. I guess the person that ultimately makes the deci- . sion would be an arbitrator or umpire under the contract, but the company could go ahead and fire him and say, “We will sit back and litigate."
Also included in this contract is a section which says that if any man interferes with the operation of a mine, he can be fired. In reading all these sections together, that is essentially what happens.
Senator SCHWEIKER. That section there mentions removal from the committee?
Mr. YABLONSKI. That is what I was pointing out. There is also a section in here that if a man interferes with the operation of a mine, he can be fired. What they do is that they read those sections together and-goodby.
I will be happy to put in the record a copy of the mine workers contract. They are proud of it, but, as I said in the statement, I think the contract is just as you pointed out, Senator Schweiker. It is even more restrictive than the Federal labor law, which says if a man has a good faith belief that a dangerous condition exists, he can walk off the job and encourage his fellow employees to walk off the job and that can't be determined to be a strike.
I don't think he has to go use the contract, because the contract does put him in jeopardy.
Senator WILLIAMS. I wonder if we can turn now to an inquiry by Senator Randolph and I would like to say that following Senator Randolph's discussion and inquiry with you, we will then turn to our Department of Interior witnesses and if there is anything that we feel or you feel from this panel should be covered that has not been covered, we will go maybe into it this afternoon.
Mr. TRBOVICH. Senator, there is one thing I would like to bring out, if you will yield to me. I have one more point here.
The safety awards issued in the coal industry is the biggest farce that you have ever seen. The J & L Steel Corp. mine where I work and the other big coal companies get an award for the best safety record. Yet in all of these mines you can go into the lamphouse and you can see men sitting with broken legs, bad backs, broken toes, broken arms.
They sit in the lamphouse and they sit in the shop or someplace around the mine. The company pays their wages, but yet this accident is not reported to the Department as a lost-time accident.
Just recently, several months ago, they put one on the bulletin board in the mine where I worked and everybody at the mine had to laugh because it is a joke. The sad thing about it is this: When a man sits in the lamphouse and he collects his wages, if permanent injury results from that accident, you have one hell of a time collecting compensation after that, because the first thing they tell you is that you didn't lose any time, you maintained the wages, you didn't lose any wages. So this is the sad thing about it.
This is all I have to say.
Senator RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, I was asked by Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, who is not a member of this subcommittee or the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, to indicate his continuing interest in these hearings. He had his representative present yesterday as the matters concerning the small mines were discussed.
As you recall, Mr. Chairman, he has had a special interest in the problems of those mines, particularly in Kentucky. He indicated to me that he had desired to be present personally today and he might have asked the question if it was within his province, Mr. Chairman, to do so.
Although we have not always agreed with Senator Cooper in this subcommittee or in the provisions of the bill, we do recognize in Senator Cooper a man who is very much concerned about workers, about the conditions under which the miners toil.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Yablonski, just before Mike spoke, was talking about the strike, the problems of the strike related to the most recent incident. I want the record to show again, as I have had it show in the past, that I believe any coal miner who feels that his health or safety is impaired by working in a coal mine, has not only the right but he has the responsibility to leave his job.
I think he has a further right and responsibility. That is to talk with other miners, very frankly. I am not saying that this would be an attitude of a walkout or a shutdown or a closure of a mine, but I believe that we redress our grievances when we do not appear in the role of members of a silent majority or a silent minority.
We speak about these matters as many, many persons by the scores have spoken about these problems, their concerns and their grievances, during the hearings as we brought about the passage of the bill which in these hearings is a review of what has been done or apparently has not been done to implement the provisions of the act.
Now, I had mentioned earlier, Mr. Chairman, that there were certain figures which indicated the impact of the recent mine closures. So, as an effort on my part to not just give those figures, but to implement them, I have received these figures in the last few minutes.
They are not from the owners, they are not from the union, they are U.S. Government figures. I do not wish to make comment on them, but will read them in the record.
On July 28 there were 168 coal mines that were closed by the strike. By that closure there was a loss of 420,000 tons of production. That resulted, as I understand it, in a loss of $168,000 in the miners' health and welfare fund on that 1 day.
On August 4 the number of mines closed by the strike was reduced to 71 and the production loss was 200,000 tons on that day.
On August 6, 32 mines were closed by the strike and the loss was reduced to 89,000 tons on that day.