Miners’ union files suit against federal agency over COVID-19 protection

US & World

WASHINGTON, D.C., (WOWK) – The United Mine Workers of America International Union (UMWA) and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) have jointly filed a petition for a writ of mandamus that would order the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect miners from infectious diseases.

UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said MSHA has allegedly refused to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, despite requests from the union. The petition was filed today, June 16, 2020, in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

“Working in a mine is very different from working in any other workplace,” Roberts said. “The air is circulated throughout the mine, meaning an airborne disease like COVID-19 can spread among workers who are far removed from one another. A six-foot social distance is meaningless in an underground environment.”

The petition states:

“The situation confronting miners is urgent. Miners have largely been designated as ‘essential’ workers and thus are currently working at mine sites across the country.  Further, as government-imposed stay-at-home orders are lifted and demand for mine-produced resources increases, more miners will return to work at pre-pandemic levels.”

Petition filed by the United Mine Workers of America International Union (UMWA) and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW)

The petition also says “if MSHA fails to issue an ETS to address this unprecedented crisis, the life and health of tens of thousands of miners will be placed in grave danger as a result of the miners’ increased exposure to COVID-19,” according to the UMWA.

“MSHA’s sole purpose is to keep miners safe, and COVID-19 poses a grave risk to workers’ health,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “It’s time for our federal agencies to start taking their responsibilities to workers seriously. We needed an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases at the beginning of the pandemic, and we still need one now.”

The petition asks for an expedited hearing process with a ruling to be issued within 30 days of the Court granting the writ, according to the UMWA.

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