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Mine Featured in “Coal” Reality TV Show Cited for Labor Law Violations

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Cobalt Coal and two other entities, charging that the companies subverted unions in pursuit of profit.

TRIANGLE, VA. – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Cobalt Coal and two other entities, charging that the companies failed to bargain in good faith with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and illegally contracted out operation of its Westchester mine in McDowell Co., W. Va., after the union won an organizing drive at the mine.

The mine was featured in a reality television show on Spike TV in 2011, when it was cited multiple times by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training for safety violations that were caught on tape and aired during the program’s one-season run. In 2012, the miners voted to be represented by the UMWA.

After refusing to bargain in good faith, Cobalt laid off its employees at the mine, then shifted operations to W&F Coal Sales, a nonunion contractor. No effort was made to recall the laid-off union workers, which the UMWA alleged was a violation of the law. The NLRB agreed.

“I am pleased that the NLRB has agreed with us that the injustices perpetrated by Cobalt against its employees must be remedied,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “These miners only wanted to win a fair contract so that they could better provide for their families, make their jobs safer and be respected at their workplace.

“Every working American deserves a safe workplace, with dignity and respect on the job, but far too many employers these days are willing to break the law to deny these basic rights to workers,” Roberts said. “When an employer does that to UMWA members, we fight back.”

The Board’s complaint seeks reinstatement of the workers to their jobs at the mine and an order to Cobalt to bargain in good faith with the UMWA.

“The true ‘reality’ about Cobalt Coal is that management never cared a minute for its workers’ safety on the job or their rights as Americans to have a voice in their workplace, ” said UMWA International District 17 Vice President Joe Carter. “The UMWA will continue our fight to win fairness for these miners.”

A hearing on this case has been scheduled for 9 a.m., Feb. 4, at a place to be announced.

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