CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Union coal mines are significantly safer than non-union mining operations, according to a new report from a Stanford University law professor.
Alison D. Morantz found a "substantial and significant decline in traumatic mining injuries and fatalities" at underground mines where workers were members of the United Mine Workers union. The disparities were especially pronounced among larger mines, Morantz found.
The report, published last week by the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at Stanford, found that, over the last two decades, there have been between 18 and 33 percent fewer traumatic injuries at union mines, compared to non-union operations. It found 27 to 68 percent fewer fatal accidents at union mines over the same period. The range in figures accounts for possible statistical variations because of a small sample size.
"This is a groundbreaking study that quantifies the profound differences in safety underground coal miners experience when working union versus working non-union," said UMW President Cecil Roberts. "The simple truth is that union mines are safer, and this study proves that."
In her report, though, Morantz explains that most of the studies on the matter show it's not exactly that simple.
"Empirical literature on the relationship between unionization and workplace safety presents a curious puzzle," she wrote.
"On the one hand, scholars have documented numerous ways in which unions help to promote safe work practices," she wrote. "For example, unions typically play a critical role in educating workers about on-the-job hazards, incentivizing workers to take greater care on the job, attracting more safety-conscious workers, inducing employers to mitigate known hazards, increasing regulatory scrutiny, and developing safety-related innovations.