Wade Damron had worked in mines for 11 years but never feared for his life until he found himself on a runaway coal scooper heading toward three co-workers, he testified yesterday during a federal mine-safety hearing.The Labor Department is seeking a $40,000 fine against the mine and its owners for each of the cases where mineowners discriminated against workers who were exercising their health and safety rights. But the owners protest.
"I started hollering, 'No brakes! No brakes!' "Damron said. "I had to put it into the rib (mine wall) to stop it."
Damron, 36, was one of four miners who testified before a federal administrative law judge that a Letcher County coal company fired them for complaining about safety conditions at the underground mine where they worked.
[Company owner Stanley] Osborne, 61, who like [superintendent Simon] Ratliff is representing himself at the hearing, said safety was the top priority.Using profanity? I’m sure that’s unheard of in a coal mine, especially after a near-death experience.
Osborne also said that he fired only one of the miners, Wendell McClain, for using profanity after the coal-scooper incident involving Damron.
The others quit, Osborne said.Yeah, no doubt their virgin ears had been violated by the profanity.
McClain, 36, of Letcher County, who had worked at the mine for only five days, denied the allegation during his testimony.And, finally, when all else fails, there’s the traditional company fallback position:
"I just said someone was going to get killed if they didn't fix the thing," McClain said.
"They told me to grab my bucket and get off the hill."
Ratliff asked [Administrative Law Judge T. Todd] Hodgdon to allow him to introduce evidence of drug use at the mine.Welcome to the modern American workplace.
But the judge rejected the request as irrelevant to a complaint alleging discrimination.