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The Militant this week
El Militante
‘When union goes, safety goes with it’
Memorial held for Kentucky miners killed on job
U.S. military blocks Iranian arms shipment to Hezbollah
Israeli troops conduct raid deep in Lebanon as deployment of int’l force delayed
Socialist candidates in Massachusetts: U.S. hands off Cuba!
Immigrant rights supporters build September 7 rally in Washington
Rightists confront immigrant rights protesters in New Jersey town
‘We are for whatever strengthens the confidence and capacity of the toilers’
Letter from SWP leader on Israel’s murderous war on Lebanon

A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 70/No. 33September 4, 2006



New York City, Saturday, September 2.
Welcome young socialists and others from across the U.S. graduating from Marxist summer schools in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Twin Cities. Hear: Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. Click here for more information

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Victory for Labor Rights!
Judge signs order dismissing harassment suit by C.W. Mining Co. against UMWA, 16 former Co-Op miners, and the Militant.

(lead article)
‘When union goes, safety goes with it’
Memorial held for Kentucky miners killed on job
Militant/Sam Manuel
Some 225 miners and others gathered August 19 at Harlan Center in Harlan, Kentucky, for a memorial to the eight coal miners killed on the job in Harlan County since December.

HARLAN, Kentucky—Some 225 people, many of them coal miners and their families, attended a memorial service here August 19 for the eight coal miners killed on the job since December in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Five of those miners—Jimmy Lee, Amon Brock, Roy Middleton, George Petra, and Paris Thomas—died following an explosion at the Darby Mine No. 1 in nearby Holmes Mill on May 20. Five months earlier coal miner David Morris Jr., 29, was killed on Dec. 30, 2005, when he was struck by a shuttle car inside the H&D Mine. That same month Russell Cole and Brandon Wilder were killed in a roof fall at Stillhouse Mine No. 1.

“When the union goes out, safety goes with it,” George Massey, a retired miner and member of a gospel group, the Mount Sinai Volunteers, that sang hymns at the meeting, told the Militant, expressing the sentiments of many. The group’s members are retired miners in eastern Kentucky who are Black.

None of the coal mines in Harlan County are unionized today, while thousands of miners were members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) here two decades ago.

Thirty-seven coal miners have died on the job in the United States this year. That compares to 22 in all of 2005.

Tracy North, daughter of Paris Thomas, said she was pleased with the memorial. “We just want to make sure these miners are never forgotten,” she told the Militant following the meeting. “This is also a way for the families to continue to speak for safety in the mines.” North was part of protests organized by relatives of five miners who died at the Darby Mine No. 1 against their exclusion from the investigation of that disaster by state and federal officials.

“If mines were required to build an oxygen room where trapped men could go and stay for two or three days, with enough food, water, and oxygen, it would save lives,” Paul Ledford, the only miner who escaped the Darby explosion, told the Lexington Herald-Leader at the memorial meeting. “The companies claim they would each cost about $80,000, but they make that much in a day.”

Ledford escaped with the help of an oxygen mask that only partially worked.

“We are here today to recognize the sacrifices and celebrate the lives of real heroes,” said Kenny Johnson. “Men who got up every day and went to work because they had people that they loved and had to provide for.” Johnson, a UMWA mine and safety official, chaired the meeting.

“As we speak we know miners are going to work in unsafe conditions…and any day there can be another catastrophe,” said attorney Tony Oppegard. “There is no greater way to honor these men than to speak out for mine safety.”

Oppegard and Johnson are representing family members of the miners killed in the Darby explosion during investigations by state and federal mine safety agencies. Characterizations of these disasters as “freak accidents” or “acts of God” should not be accepted, Oppegard told the crowd. “These were acts of men, not God,” he said.

“As senseless as their deaths often seem, we must allow them to inspire us to improve safety for coal miners,” U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler said in his speech to the gathering.

UMWA president Cecil Roberts, who had been scheduled to speak, was unable to attend the meeting.

Debbie Hamner and Sara Bailey, wife and daughter, respectively, of George Hamner Jr., one of the 12 miners killed at the Sago Mine in West Virginia on January 2, expressed support to the meeting from their families.

“Anything you do to bring focus to mine safety issues is honoring these men,” Hamner said. “Miners deserve a safe work place and the equipment they need.”

They and other family members of the miners who died at Sago are still waiting for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to finish its report. “We have heard it could take them up to two years,” Hamner said.

They expressed disappointment at the report released in July by an investigative commission appointed by West Virginia’s governor. “That report wasn’t anything new. None of the promises made to us were fulfilled,” Bailey said.

“We came out to show that the blood that binds coal miners is the same,” George Massey, of the Mount Sinai Volunteers, told the Militant. “We had a safe record in the county until they got rid of the unions.

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