During my labor history class last night, my professor brought up an interesting question surrounding the West Virginia mine explosion. She asked us whether or not it had been mentioned if the workers were members of a union. Save one student, no one knew the answer.
As it turns out, the workers involved in the explosion are non-union members. I checked out several online news websites here, here, here, here, and here but could not find any mention of the workers’ union status. Here is the only place where I did manage to find out that the workers were non-union employees of Massey Energy.
Why is it important whether or not a member is part of a union?
According to Chuck Nelson, in an interview with Democracy Now, a non-union miner “cannot file a grievance” when he was told to do something whereas a union miner has “union representation.”
During that same interview, it had been mentioned that Massey Energy had been cited “for more than 1,300 safety violations from 2005 through Monday (the day of the mine explosion).”
I have a feeling that had there been union representation, those 1,300 plus safety violations would have been challenged and the mine workers would have been better protected.