July 15, 2007 The Pump Handle 3Comment

The Louisville-Courier Journal’s (LCJ) David Hawpe tells it like he sees it: “Coal is an outlaw industry.”  When criticized for degrading the industry and asked when he would stop calling it names, Hawpe replied when the industry started “behaving like something other than a bunch of outlaws.”  Read Hawpe’s editorial here. 

The LCJ columnist recounts some of the testimony from last week’s public hearing on a proposed MSHA rule to strengthen seals in underground mines.  He says:

“I’ll stop using the phrase when industry officials stop opposing federal rules that could save miners’ lives…condemning such rules as unacceptably costly and sure to produce ‘regulatory chaos.’  …I’ll stop when they stop using Pavlovian-sounding phrases like ‘behavior modification,’ to describe how miners should be trained to work more safely.  …It’s the coal industry that needs behavior modification.'”

Indeed, workplace health and safety regulations are the tool we are supposed to use to modify employers’ behavior.  (Of course, they need to be strictly enforced and carry meaningful penalties.)  If mine operators sneer at the mention of new regulations to create safer mining practices, perhaps they’d be more respective to calls for behavior modification techniques.  

“No sir, Mr. Mine Operator.  This isn’t a new regulation, it’s just a behavior modification technique to help you change your outlaw ways.”


Additional note: The Kentucky Coal Association’s Coal Counts factsheet states that about 17,000 workers are employed directly in coal mining jobs in the state.  It reports:

“Less then 3% of working miners are members of the United Mine Workers.” 

Can someone enlighten me on why this is an important fact?

3 thoughts on “Stickin’ it to the Coal Industry

  1. Thanks Jordan. In Hawpe’s July 15, 2007 editorial, he says that he first used the phrase “outlaw industry” in 1982. Reporters and editors for the LCJ had just published an expose on the Kentucky coal industry’s safety record, following the disasters at the Topmost mine (8 miners killed) and the Craynor mine (7 miners killed). He says he used the phrase again in 1998 after the paper published its Dust, Deception and Disease series (by Gardiner Harris and R.G. Dunlop) on the persistence of black lung disease, and cheating by mine operators on the required dust samples. And as you indicate, in 2006 after the Sago, Alma and Darby disasters.

  2. I can’t remember the year but Peabody Coal (Big Mountain mine) in Prenter, WV was also caught cheating on their dust samples.

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