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September 9, 1970
The mine was inspected by the Bureau of Mines on February 7, 1970, and a notice was issued for a violation of Section 209 of the Federal Mine Safety Code. The violation was corrected by 1:00 p.m. that same day.
On February 8, Mr. McVey, in a special meeting of the local union, informed the members of what action was taken and the men agreed to return to work.
On February 11, a meeting was held with Ford Sampson and Lester Zimmerman, Ohio Coal Association; Baxter Ellison, Mine Superintendent; Paul Sparkman, Mine Foreman; Dave Cunningham, General Manager; John Riley, Assistant Mine Foreman; Robert Bunting, Shift Foreman; Leonard McVey, District 6 Division No. 3 Board Member; William Howard, District 6 Safety Coordinator; Hubert Cook, Tom Perkins and Tom Freeman, Mine Committeemen; Harry Baker, James Holland, Jerry Hendricks, and the three discharged employees. At this meeting the union demanded that the three discharged employees be returned to employment immediately with pay for all lost time. The union took the position that the contract did not permit the company to fire safety committeemen in the performance of their duty. The company agreed to reinstatement but not back pay for lost time. At 8:00a.m. on February 12 the mine again went on strike. District officials held almost daily conferences with the coal company officials or its association representatives. In addition, John Owens, International Secretary-Treasurer, contacted the Bituminous Coal Operators Association and asked them to immediately correct this contract violation.
On Saturday, March 7, the Y & O Coal Company agreed to reinstate the men with back nay and the men were so informed at a special meeting of the local union on liarch 8, 1970. The employees returned to work on March 9. Since that time, Mr. James Holland accepted the job as section foreman at the Allison Hine. Mr. Harry Baker returned to his job as a mechanic and is still a member of the safety committee. Mr. Jerry Hendricks, although reinstated, quit the coal industry in July and is reportedly working in Florida.
Because of this testimony, I have caused an investigation to be made in the districts to determine if any other mine safety committeemen have been discharged and what action was taken by the
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September 9, 1970
various districts. This preliminary investigation shows that on August 13, 1969, at the Vail mine operated by the Island Creek Coal Company which is located in District 6, nine men were discharged when they refused to work because there was no communication between their section and the outside. Eight of these men were reinstated at the mine level, and one was reinstated at the joint board level. On April 13, 1970, two employees of the Rose Valley Mine operated by the Hanna Coal Company, were discharged because they refused to operate an unsafe rock duster. These men were reinstated after a meeting was held at the mine level. Although these latter cases do not involve mine safety committeemen, they did involve discharges over safety questions in District 6.
In District 5 over a period of many years only one safety committeeman has been discharged for shutting down a mine. This occurred on June 11, 1969. Richard Collins, an employee of the Peggs Run Coal Company, was discharged. Mr. Collins was returned to work with full seniority rights and back pay.
In District 17, three members of the safety comnittee at the Amherst Coal Company Mine #7 were discharged on August 22, 1969 after the safety committee had made certain recommendations.
The company refused to comply with the committee's recommendations, whereupon, the men walked off the job and the safety committee followed. These employees then shut down the #2 mine of the Amherst Coal Company and also other mines in the area. The company contended that the parties were discharged, not for any safety reasons, but because they failed to perform their duties as mine safety committeemen. Again, upon the insistence of the District officials, these men were reinstated with back pay.
On January 26, 1970, Robert Pruitt, a safety committeeman employed by the Pocahontas Fuel Company located at Newhall, West Virginia, was discharged after the company had failed to make a preshift examination of the mine. The men refused to work. The company permitted Pruitt to work under protest while a grievance was being processed on the contention that Pruitt violated the agreement by interfering with the operation of the mine.
before the grievance could be processed, the company withdrew its protest. Pruitt has continued to be an employee of the mine and a member of the safety committee.
September 9, 1970
This survey indicates that very few safety committeemen have been discharged because of their activities as committeemen, and in no case has it been found that any such action by the coal operator has been successful.
Mr. Yablonski asserts that the only information furnished UMWA members regarding the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act was the publication of the Act in the UMW Journal. Again, such erroneous assertion, made out of ignorance, and designed to divide the UMWA membership to further the campaign of those seeking office in the union, can only harm the safety program.
The facts are as follows:
(1) In addition to the Journal publication, the union had copies of the Act and the regulations printed and forwarded one to each local union.
(2) Many area conferences were held by the UMWA Safety Director, district safety coordinators and mine safety committeemen to discuss and acquaint all the members with the provisions of the Act.
Senator WILLIAMS. Our next witnesses are from the Department of the Interior, Mr. Fred Russell, Under Secretary of Interior; Hollis Dole, Assistant Secretary of Mineral Resources; and Mitchell Melich, the Solicitor of the Department.
I feel it is important to make a statement before I turn to our witnesses who are from the Department of the Interior.
Yesterday, and this morning, the subcommittee has heard charges against the Department of the Interior for its inadequate enforcement of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. The subcommittee had previously heard such charges in the coalfields in Pennsylvania. I have had individual miners undertake the expense of coming to Washington to see me personally to register complaints. They are in almost daily telephone contact with my office registering complaints
. And I must say to you, in my 15 years in both the House and Senate, I have never heard as many complaints from as many different, respon. sible sources, about the administration of any law as I have heard about this one. I must say also that the nature of the complaints are the most serious I have ever heard regarding the administration of a law passed by Congress.
In all fairness to those of you who represent the Department I must warn you: This subcommittee is not neutral and impartial about the health and safety of workingmen. When it comes to a question of someone getting health and safety justice from the law written painstakingly over 9 months by this subcommittee, we are not neutral and impartial.
For the record, let me note at the outset, that the Under Secretary, Mr. Russell, is here at the specific request of the subcommittee, since we understand he is the ranking official with close day-to-day responsibility and authority for the administration of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.
Before you begin, Mr. Russell, there are several matters I will lay before you and the subcommittee.
I have reviewed the record of our hearings both here in Washington and in the coalfields. I have reviewed the transcripts of meetings between the subcommittee staff and the Interior Department; I have read many of the documents in several pending lawsuits; I have seen complaints registered on the floor of both Houses of Congress, and I have studied most of the material prepared by your Department over the past 6 months in response to congressional inquiries.
All the information available to me reads like a serious indictment. I cannot begin, in one sitting, to enumerate all of the grievous charges of heinous conduct by the Department. However, in order for your testimony to have the proper focus, I will just enumerate some of the most serious counts: -You established by regulation a penalty schedule, which ignores
the factors required by the law. -You meekly sat back and allowed the Federal district court in
Virginia to extend for an indefinite period an order prohibiting enforcement of the safety regulations of March 28. During the court hearing, questions were raised about the safety features of the law and safety equipment and its availability. But you provided no expert witnesses on these matters.
- You determined, despite the fact that the court issued its order on
behalf of 77 small mine operators only, that the large mine operators, who have never been parties to the case, should also reap the questionable benefits. Thus, the regulations by administrative fiat are unenforceable against all operators. -You have failed, even at this late date, to comply fully with the mandate of the law concerning spot inspections at designated
hazardous mines. - You have failed, until pressed by Congress, to even begin to for
malize and streamline your program of hiring and training persons as coal mine inspectors. Only after the urging of Congress a few weeks ago, did Interior even begin to think in terms of providing for a full-time director of training. You have issued during the first 2 weeks of June over 1,000 warnings to operators who violate the act, and in each case have accepted the highly questionable assertion of a lack of technology, of unavailability of equipment, or personnel. - You have required that operators install at this time methane
monitors on equipment in mines, despite the fact that only 6 months
the Bureau of Mines told House-Senate conferees such monitors were not yet reliable or available. -You initiated last June talks with the industry and the UMW to
discuss the regulations and possible changes. But only after Members of Congress objected to such closed meetings did you invite staff members. You still failed, however, to open them to all interested persons, including our witnesses this morning, or
to keep a verbatim record of the proceedings. In addition to these charges, I have provided you earlier today with a written series of questions reflecting our concern on specific issues.
The committee expects that the witnesses will direct themselves to all of these issues, none of which is being raised for the first time this morning. As a matter of fact, they have all been raised on previous occasions.
This is the strongest statement I have ever made in a committee hearing. Unfortunately, I thought it was necessary before we proceed to the introduction of our witnesses. (The questions referred to follow :)
QUESTIONS OF SENATOR WILLIAMS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 1. Has the Interior Department conducted a detailed survey of each of the mines subject to the Virginia lawsuit to ascertain precisely what equipment and personnel are not available at each mine?
2. Also, what efforts have the operators of each such mine made to comply with the standards in Title III of the law in a timely fashion?
3. (a) What guidelines or directives has Interior issued to its inspectors to verify that equipment or personnel at every mine is not available at the time of inspection?
(6) Does the operator sign a statement to that effect ?
(c) Does the inspector require the operators to demonstrate what efforts have been made to obtain the equipment and personnel?
(d) Are manufacturers checked to see if the operators are timely seeking the equipment? 4. (a) Has Interior conducted the survey required by section 305(a) of the Act as to the total availability of new or rebuilt permissible electric face equip. ment and replacement parts?
(b) Will the results be published next month as required?