Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO Slam Romney on Mine Safety and Black Lung

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AFL-CIO is out with a brutal new mailer hitting Mitt Romney on his opposition to tough mine safety standards. The issue is that the Romney-Ryan ticket is turning a blind eye to the doubling of black lung rates in recent years, and siding with pennypinching union busters like Don Blankenship on letting the industry self-police.

Scott Detrow and Howard Berkes did an interview aboout this back in July:

[Scott Detrow]: Berkes reports that between 2000 and 2011, 53,000 air sam­ples con­tained more coal dust than fed­eral law allows. Reg­u­la­tors issued just 2,400 cita­tions dur­ing that period.

[Howard Berkes]: This is a big loop­hole in the law. The law per­mits min­ing com­pa­nies to take their own sam­ples. After a vio­la­tion is found by a fed­eral mine inspec­tor the min­ing com­pany goes in and can take their own sam­ples. They get to take their own sam­ples and they aver­age them. And if the aver­age of the five sam­ples beats the stan­dard, then the vio­la­tion is dis­pensed with. This is a sys­tem that depends, to a great extent, on self-policing by an indus­try that has no inter­est in turn­ing in valid sam­ples, because that would only slow down the min­ing process and cost them money, if they were in violation.

We found exam­ples that inti­cate that there’s wide­spread gam­ing of this sys­tem, and there has been for the 40 years that these reg­u­la­tions have been in place…

One very graphic illus­tra­tion of that [wide­spread gam­ing] is when you take the sam­ples that are actu­ally col­lected by mine inspec­tors, and then you take the sam­ples taken by min­ing com­pa­nies, and you com­pare them. What you find is that min­ing com­pa­nies show far less expo­sure than the mine inspec­tors do. I believe in one year there was a 40 per­cent dif­fer­ence. It’s not a sys­tem that’s going to give you an hon­est appraisal of the actual expo­sure that min­ers incur

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