AFL-CIO is out with a brutal new mailer hitting Mitt Romney on his opposition to tough mine safety standards. The issue is that the Romney-Ryan ticket is turning a blind eye to the doubling of black lung rates in recent years, and siding with pennypinching union busters like Don Blankenship on letting the industry self-police.
Scott Detrow and Howard Berkes did an interview aboout this back in July:
[Scott Detrow]: Berkes reports that between 2000 and 2011, 53,000 air samples contained more coal dust than federal law allows. Regulators issued just 2,400 citations during that period.
[Howard Berkes]: This is a big loophole in the law. The law permits mining companies to take their own samples. After a violation is found by a federal mine inspector the mining company goes in and can take their own samples. They get to take their own samples and they average them. And if the average of the five samples beats the standard, then the violation is dispensed with. This is a system that depends, to a great extent, on self-policing by an industry that has no interest in turning in valid samples, because that would only slow down the mining process and cost them money, if they were in violation.
We found examples that inticate that there’s widespread gaming of this system, and there has been for the 40 years that these regulations have been in place…
One very graphic illustration of that [widespread gaming] is when you take the samples that are actually collected by mine inspectors, and then you take the samples taken by mining companies, and you compare them. What you find is that mining companies show far less exposure than the mine inspectors do. I believe in one year there was a 40 percent difference. It’s not a system that’s going to give you an honest appraisal of the actual exposure that miners incur