West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said he is deeply disappointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s decision to sign legislation that puts West Virginia coal miners at risk.
 
“In his long career as a lawmaker, Governor Tomblin had always worked to adopt laws that help protect coal miners – until now. Senate Bill 357 is a disappointing step backward in mine safety, and I had hoped the Governor would veto the legislation,” Perdue said.
 
SB 357 abolishes the West Virginia Diesel Commission, which protects the health and safety of miners in underground mines that use diesel powered equipment. It also increases the distance a rail track can be from the working face area from 500 feet to 1,500 feet -- a distance of five football fields an injured miner would have be transported to reach rail transportation to the outside.
 
But the most troubling element of the bill strips language intended to protect miners from ventilation dangers related to smoke and fire in instances of moving equipment -- a provision became the focus of attention after the 1972 Blacksville No. 1 Mine Fire in Monongalia County that killed 9 West Virginia coal miners.
 
“It’s only been five years since the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that took 29 coal miners’ lives, yet this legislation removes safety provisions intended to protect West Virginia miners in the event of a fire,” Perdue said. “I am shocked and saddened by the Legislative leadership’s pursuit of a bill that places profits above safety, and I am very disappointed that Governor Tomblin apparently did not join the majority of Democrat legislators in seeing the danger the legislation poses to miners.”

CHARLESTON – Standing strong against politically motivated attacks on West Virginia working families, close to 7,000 made their way to Charleston today to celebrate “Mountaineer Workers Rising.”

“This has been a powerful display of unity that sends a clear message to the legislators who are at this very moment inside the State Capitol, making decisions that directly affect West Virginia families,” West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said. “The people who have gathered here today represent a huge segment of our state’s population, and they want lawmakers to know that they are paying attention.”

Thousands West Virginians will travel to the State Capitol Saturday to celebrate Mountaineer Workers rising and standing together against legislative attacks on our working families.

“This is a chance for workers from throughout the region to come together in solidarity and speak up, in a unified voice, about the jobs and way of life we are fighting to protect,” WVAFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said. “This is about educating our children, building our communities and improving the state’s economy.”

National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts and Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall will be part of a large delegation of labor international presidents and officers who will attend the “Mountaineer Workers Rising” event.

At least 40 busloads carrying thousands of people are expected at the rally, which will begin at noon on the riverside steps of the State Capitol.

CHARLESTON -- Representatives of the West Virginia AFL-CIO and its affiliates gathered today at the State Capitol to call for a stop to the attack on working West Virginians and their families.

“I’ve been told many times this week that this has been the largest public turnout in the Statehouse halls in recent memory, and that’s because these working men and women realize how this legislative attack will hurt West Virginia families,” WV AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said. “We’re working hard to help legislators and members of the public understand that.”

Of primary concern to the group are three pieces of legislation:

  • Senate Bill 337 would enact a so-called “Right to Work” measure

“What some are calling ‘Right to Work’ or ‘Workplace Freedom’ is a proposed law that actually ties the hands of employers by taking away some of their rights and options in dealing with their employees,” Perdue said. “This legislation is often promoted as pro-business, when instead it restricts the options available to businesses, and infringes on voluntary negotiations between private employers and employees.”

  • Senate Bill 361 would repeal the state Prevailing Wage

“The prevailing wage is good for local businesses and contractors, good for workers and encourages skills and training, the result being cost-effective, quality public projects,” West Virginia State Building Trades Director Steve White said. “A repeal of this would be disastrous: hurt local contractors, lead to wage cuts, fewer training opportunities, less people who have benefits, and more accidents on job – all that for no savings of taxpayer funds.”

  • Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 2014 to establish Charter Schools

“This legislation contemplates creating a whole new system of schools despite the fact there is no public outcry for charter schools in West Virginia, and no evidence that academic achievement in charter schools exceeds that in regular public schools,” said Christine Campbell, President of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia. “Charter schools in other states are being criticized for financial mismanagement, lack of accountability and the failure to demonstrate academic improvement. Why is there such a push to enact charter schools when West Virginia already has in place laws to encourage innovation and mentoring within our existing school system?”
 
“We applaud legislators for examining every possible method to boost West Virginia’s economy and educational system, but each of us who spoke today – representing tens of thousands of West Virginians – truly believe these bills of concern would serve only to set our state’s economy back,” President Perdue said. “We urge legislators to focus their valuable time and energy on measures that will help West Virginia’s employers, employees and students succeed.”
 
*Attached are President Perdue’s remarks regarding Right to Work.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Today, West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue released the following statement in regards to the death of Marshall University President Stephen Kopp:

“With the passing of President Kopp, Marshall University lost one of the most dedicated Presidents and public servants in the history of the school.  Since his first day on campus in Huntington, Dr. Kopp proved to be a true friend of labor and working families, and for that I am grateful.  Dr. Kopp was an academic leader and a true leader in West Virginia. Today I, along with all of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, send my condolences to Dr. Kopp’s wife Jane, his children Adam and Liz, Marshall University, and the entire Huntington community. ” 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Today, West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue released the following statement in regards to the indictment of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship:

“Over the years, Don Blankenship’s blatant disregard for mine safety and health laws resulted in the tragic and untimely deaths of 52 coal miners – including the 29 brave men who perished at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010.  Don Blankenship may have been a friend of coal – but he was certainly no friend of the coal miners who worked for his company.  Time and time again he chose maximizing profits over the health and well being of his employees - who are fathers, brothers, coaches, mentors, and friends across West Virginia. Yesterday’s indictment means we are one step closer to seeing justice served for the families who lost loved ones at Massey mines.”