CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The human drive for work is universal and goes beyond mere subsistence. The work we do gives meaning to our lives, provides for our families and lifts communities.
Here in West Virginia, hard work is a way of life. Whether it's coal mining, teaching or pipefitting, we take pride in not just doing our jobs, but excelling at them. And our most basic expectation is that at the end of the day, we'll return home safely to our loved ones.
April 28 marks the 25th AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day. Every year on this day, we remember workers who have suffered and lost their lives due to workplace hazards -- and we recognize that while there have been real improvements in workplace safety, there is still so much to do.
Just this week, I reintroduced my mine safety legislation with new pieces aimed at fixing more of the glaring safety issues revealed following the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, which claimed the lives of 29 coal miners three years ago.
Together with many other improvements, my bill would strengthen whistleblower protections for miners who speak out about unsafe conditions, increase penalties for those who knowingly violate mine safety standards, and prohibit mine operators from hiding safety problems by keeping two sets of books.
We've made some progress in recent years on mine safety. After Sago and Aracoma, we came together and passed the MINER Act, which accomplished key changes like giving miners better access to emergency breathable air.
More recently, we passed a law requiring the industry to disclose safety information to the public, reduced the backlog of safety violations being appealed at MSHA, and increased enforcement against mines that are known repeat offenders.
With 97 miners lost on the job in our country since Upper Big Branch, we must keep fighting for safety.
Coal mining is a daily grind of intensely hard work in perilous conditions. Miners know it and so do their loved ones, who give thanks for answered prayers every time they walk through the front door at the end of a shift.
We should be constantly vigilant for that safe return home -- for our coal miners and for workers of every industry.
So today, as we honor those whose lives were lost and those who bravely carry on the work they left behind, we also press on in the fight for safe jobs for everyone.
Rockefeller is the senior U.S. senator from West Virginia.