CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Miners working at a McDowell County mine featured in a television series last year voted this week to be represented by the United Mine Workers of America.
Twenty-three hourly workers at Cobalt Coal's Westchester Mine were eligible to vote in the election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was 15-7 in favor of UMW representation, according to the union.
"I congratulate the miners at Cobalt on their decision to join the UMWA," said Cecil E. Roberts, the union's international president. "We welcome them to the union family, and we look forward to sitting down with management and negotiating an agreement that is fair and equitable for both sides."
Miners at Cobalt's Westchester Mine were featured in "Coal," a reality show aired on Spike TV in 2011. The show ran for one season.
The Cobalt mine has valuable metallurgical coal, used to produce steel, in underground seams about 42 inches thick.
National UMW spokesman Phil Smith said that the first few episodes of that television series raised major questions about safety practices at the Cobalt mine.
Based on revelations during the Spike TV programs, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training both cited the Westchester Mine for several safety violations.
A typical UMW contract agreement includes major sections creating local union safety committees. Union agreements also provide miners protections from any retaliation for pointing out safety problems at their mines.