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September 26, 2004

Mine Safety Becomes West Virginia Election Issue

Just got back from a weekend in West Virginia where it is assumed that Republicans will prevail on November 2, campaigning on "God, Guns and Gays." But the United Mine Workers of America and America Coming Together, a nationwide group trying to mobilize Democratic voters in swing states, are showing how to use workplace safety issues in the Presidential election.

They have delivered petitions containing 1,100 signatures calling for increased funding of federal coal mine safety programs in petitions delivered to President Bush's state campaign offices

As of Sept. 1, with three months remaining in the year, West Virginia has experienced eight coal mining fatalities, more than any other state, compared with nine during all of 2003 and six in 2002, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Nationwide, there have been 17 coal mining fatalities in the first nine months of 2004. The nationwide total in 2003 was 30. West Virginia and Kentucky had the most fatalities with nine each. In 2002, Kentucky also had nine fatalities, while West Virginia had six, and the nationwide total was 27.

The petitions circulated in West Virginia stated that the Bush administration has allowed funding for coal mine safety programs "at a static $115 million ... despite the fact that deaths of coal mine workers increased from 2003 to 30 from 27 in 2002."

"Every budget submitted by the Bush Administration from 2001-2004 proposed reductions or streamlining both the ... Occupational Safety and Health Administration and ... Mine Safety and Health Administration programs," petition said. The petition called on Bush to "Protect West Virginia. Make our coal miners' health and safety your top priority."

Posted by Jordan Barab at September 26, 2004 11:36 PM