On behalf of the membership of American Federation of Musicians Local 1000, I want to extend our condolences to the families of the miners lost in the disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. The twenty-five miners who lost their lives, the four still missing, their families, and their entire community are in our prayers and in our thoughts.
But condolences are not nearly enough of a response to this preventable tragedy. Men and women working in twenty-first century America should not have to worry that there is no recourse for their concerns about workplace safety. For years the Upper Big Branch Mine and its owner, Massey Energy Company, have been cited for numerous violations, especially for high levels of methane and coal dust, the frequent cause of the kinds of explosions that occurred this Monday at UBB.
Even in news reports today surviving UBB miners asked for anonymity when relating past safety concerns for fear of losing their jobs. Non-union miners have no protection in such matters. And non-union mines have no leverage for pressing for the safety of those who mine our coal. To put this into perspective, the miners who died at the Sago, WV mine in January 2006 were working in a non-union mine on a federal holiday. There wasn’t a union miner in America working that day until they reported for the rescue team at Sago.
Nor are words or outrage a sufficient response to West Virginia’s latest sorrow. We at Local 1000 pledge our membership in support of organizing drives in our nation’s coalfields. We will be there both in spirit and in person to walk the lines, to play at the rallies, and to support our sisters and brothers in their efforts to save their families, save their jobs, and, as has been proven to be literally the case, save their lives.
We call on all our brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Musicians, all union members across this great nation, and all people of good will to pledge the same. We can help prevent future disasters by helping workers organize and win the kind of protection only unions can give working people. It’s been proven that the companies won’t do it. It’s been proven the government can’t do it. And history has proven that we can do it.
President, AFM Local 1000