May 15, 2010 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

I can’t keep up with Ken Ward Jr.’s coverage of the trouble brewing, battle, strong difference of opinion between Secretary Hilda Solis/MSHA Asst. Secretary Joe Main and the United Mine Workers (UMWA), family members of deceased coal miners and journalists about the Department of Labor’s decision to have closed-door interviews of witnesses as part of the Massey Upper Big Branch disaster investigation.

Lest you think the press and blogs are the only way to take the pulse of the public, think again. Mr. Dennis O’Dell, the current UMWA H&S director, is sharing his disgust about MSHA’s decision on the social media site Facebook. His commentary begins:

May 2 (3:07 pm): “The UMWA has been asked by miners at Upper Big Branch to be their Representatives during the investigation. There are those out there who want to ice us out of the interviews. What happened to transparency? If there is nothing to hide then why keep us out. What about a Public Hearing?”

May 6 (8:27 am): “Ok so here is the deal..the UMWA,Upper Big Branch family members, the media, the WV Coal Board, and even Massey has asked for open public hearings on the UBB investigation. What does MSHA do…”

[See DOL News Release: “MSHA announces series of public meetings to bolster transparency in investigation of Upper Big Branch Mine explosion”]

May 7 (4:30 pm): “Does anyone out there really think that the public would fall for this attempt from MSHA of playing spin doctor with their so called public hearings for transparency. Read the last statement of the news release. That says it all folks.”

“Prior to and in preparation for the public hearings, MSHA and the state of West Virginia will conduct a physical examination of the mine and private interviews of miners, mining officials and others with knowledge and information about the disaster.”

May 7 (4:30 pm): “Private: removed from or out of public view or knowledge; secret. Public: open to all persons”

Dennis O’Dell is echoing the sentiments of the UMWA President Cecil Roberts who said in a statement:

“The families of the victims do, the UMWA does, the media does, even the company said it does. The West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety – made up equally of industry and labor representatives – voted unanimously for an open and public process. The only people who don’t want this to be completely open are the government agencies, and that, frankly, continues a bad practice that we expected would change under this administration.”

Ken Ward also reminds us in a post entitled “Way back when…” that Mr. Main (when he was director of H&S for the UMWA) said “Congress intended MSHA’s investigations to constitute a public accounting, not a secretive process.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.