Despite the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which was groundbreaking workplace safety legislation, not only have coal miners been exposed to insane amounts of coal dust, but federal regulators and the coal industry have known about this for 20 years.
What has happened?
First, even though the total number of people employed by the coal industry has declined precipitiously, the average hours for coal miners still working has gone up by 11 hours a week over the last 30 years. That’s a terrible thing for many reasons, but, as the NPR story states, it exposes workers to 600 hours of additional coal dust exposure per year.
Second, new technology has vastly increased the amount of coal mined, putting more dust in the air and thus making workers’ lives more dangerous.
Probably the biggest issue is that the mine owners resist every move to test for black lung. Like industries around the country, the coal mining capitalists have attempted to take control of the regulatory process in order to roll back the protections miners have made. They are less successful during Democratic administrations, but quite successful when Republicans are president.
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i'm the leftist liberal you've been warned about - the one who genuinely supports the expansion of the welfare state. i love politics and data and graffiti and street art and am far too lazy to use my shift key. if you need to reach me, you can email to abbyjean at the google email service.