Feds vow full investigation into mine disaster
Labor secretary expresses sorrow over deaths of 12 miners in W. Va.
WASHINGTON - Federal officials expressed sorrow Wednesday over the deaths of 12 West Virginia coal miners and pledged a full investigation into what happened.
ÂOur hearts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the 12 miners who perished in this tragedy and our hopes and prayers are with the one miner who survived,Â Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement issued before dawn.
I'm not going to play the "Blame Game" as the "lame" conservatives call it. Instead, let me point out what this tragedy should tell us about the role of government in this age of the "free market". Conservative philosophy would have it that these men knew the risks they were taking when they went down in the mines, so no one should be wringing their hands over the fact that this mine company had a history of safety violations but was still allowed to operate "business as usual."
And yet we are justly outraged. We can't understand why this was allowed to go on till this moment. In other words, we need regulations, workplace rules, safety requirements even when they affect the cost of doing business and the cost of our goods and services. Risk of injury on the job cannot be completely eliminated. Some jobs are in and of themselves risky and dangerous: miners, firefighters, oil fielworkerses, police, even teachers. But we have a right to a reasonably safe workplace made free of risks where humanly possible.
And we need a federal government willing to impose those regulations. As we see in this case, local communities, states, and workers are unwilling, unable, or just plaidesperatete enough to allow a business free reign creating whatever work environment it wants. We can't allow the "marketplace" to set work rules in some vague thought that workers will choose other, safer jobs thus forcing employers to make needed changes. These miners were working for $700 a week. Someone will be desperate enough to go down into the mine just to get a paycheck.
Justice and human dignity demand that we create as safe a working environment as we can and for that we must have regulations, workplace rules, and a government strong enough and willing enough to enforce them.