WASHINGTON—American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President Joseph Flynn today offered condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the tragic Sago Mine accident this week. Flynn, who represents West Virginia federal employees, also praised the federal inspectors of the Mine Safety and Health Administration for their efforts to ensure mine safety in spite of institutional challenges. AFGE represents employees of MSHA.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident at the Sago Mine that caused the loss of twelve lives,” said Flynn. “Mine inspectors of the Mine Safety and Health Administration work diligently to ensure safe workplaces despite staff and budget cuts and despite the fact that the fines they are allowed to impose may represent paltry amounts that mining executives can just scoff at.”
Flynn explained that private citizens regularly pay more for a speeding ticket than what mining companies may be fined for violations. Flynn also stated that many mining companies have gutted their internal safety departments, thereby putting more pressure on MSHA. In 2006 MSHA will receive a $4.9 million smaller budget than in 2005, when adjusted for inflation.
“Tragedies result when Congress cuts budgets, cuts staff and companies no longer take safety seriously,” said Flynn.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia, including employees of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.