Arrested in St. Louis fighting for labor rights – National Consumers League

Thousands gathered in St. Louis to support mine worker’s benefits

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

On Monday, the National Consumers League joined two legendary labor leaders – Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America, and Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America – at a rally and protest outside Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis. We made history by rallying with 6,000+ members of the UMWA, CWA, UNITE HERE, SEIU, and Jobs for Justice and then marched to the federal courthouse several blocks away, where a group of us were arrested for “impeding traffic” by sitting down in the street. Why were we there? Because the Patriot Coal company, which was created by Peabody Energy, is filing for bankruptcy, which will leave 22,500 coal miners and their families without health care and retirement benefits. Peabody Energy continues to rake in massive profits despite Patriot Coal filing for bankruptcy.

At this rally were some true legends: Van Jones, an environmental advocate and former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the White House, spoke about environmentalists needing to care about workers facing dire loss of health care and retirement income as much as spotted owls or crickets. The NAACP’s director in Missouri, Adolthus Pruitt, read aloud sections of the Peabody annual report detailing the burgeoning profits the company was earning year after year. And of course, the two distinguished labor leaders, Roberts and Cohen.

If ever there was a just cause, this is it: ensuring that 22,500 miners who, for decades, performed dangerous labor hundreds of feet below ground, and who bargained for health care and retirement benefits for their families and gave up wages and other benefits in the process, get the benefits and income they are due. The National Consumers League proudly stands with these workers and their families, and that is why I and Van Jones and Larry Cohen and so many others spoke out, marched, and got arrested in St. Louis.

Lack of worker safety highlighted by April disasters – National Consumers League

By Michell K. McIntyre, Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft

April was not a good month for worker safety. Over a two-week span, four separate events – an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, a fire at an Exxon refinery in Texas, a building collapse in Bangladesh, and the death of a poultry plant inspector in New York– highlight the human cost of big business. It is estimated that every day in America, 13 workers go to their job and never come home.

This last Sunday, April 28, was Workers Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered and died on the job from workplace injuries and diseases. Each death has left friends and family behind to pick up the pieces and move on with a new reality. These are lives that could have been saved. Lives that, if the necessary precautions had been made and basic safety standards implemented, could have been prevented.

Big business has consistently put its interests ahead of the interests of its employees. Either through lobbying to weaken regulations and government oversight, or simply gross negligence, industry has gambled with people’s lives. Unfortunately, it is the workers who pay when this gamble fails. Government is continuously lobbied by industry to either weaken existing regulations or prevent new proposed regulations from becoming law. Industry has lobbied to skewer government agency budgets to prevent proper funding to agencies tasked with inspecting duties.

American companies have a responsibility to protect their employees.  Too often, big companies are deemed innocent of any wrongdoing in cases of preventable work-related injury. We must put pressure on these companies to raise safety standards throughout their supply chain to protect workers both at home and abroad. Stay tuned to for an in-depth piece on workplace disasters later this week.