The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Resurgence of Black Lung Disease

Sep 3, 2012

Black lung disease has returned, killing miners in West Virginia at a rate 20 times the national average. Black lung is the disease that prevents miners exposed to coal dust or silica from breathing. It is always fatal.

And it’s going to get worse if a bill now in Congress passes. It would prevent funds going to enforce current regulations lowering miners’ exposure to coal dust.

It’s obvious that standards on miners’ health are already being ignored. Even a consultant for the National Mining Association pointed out that silica standards are not being enforced for miners: “These people are being exposed three to four times the silica exposure [standards],” said Bob Glenn.

Forty years ago, thousands of miners went on strike to gain black lung protection. And they won better regulations to be enforced on the mining industry. The rate of black lung fell by 90% in the 1970s.

But within capitalist society, nothing won is won permanently. It was the mobilization of the 1970s that enforced respect for miners’ health on the mine owners.

It will be their own mobilization that lets workers have safe conditions today.