May 20, 2011
Morantz: Union Status Correlates with Coal Miner Safety
Alison D. Morantz (Stanford) has just posted on SSRN her article Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference?. The article is pariticularly well-timed, having been posted on the same day as the release of this Report concluding that the 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine, in which 29 miners died, was the result of pervasive safety violations by mine owner Massey Energy. Here's the abstract:
Although the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has always advocated strongly for miners’ safety, prior empirical literature contains no evidence that unionization reduced mine injuries or fatalities during the 1970s and ‘80s. This study uses a more comprehensive dataset and updated methodology to examine the relationship between unionization and underground, bituminous coal mine safety from 1993 to 2008. I find that unionization predicts a substantial and significant decline in traumatic mining injuries and fatalities, the two measures that I argue are the least prone to reporting bias. These disparities are especially pronounced among larger mines. My best estimates imply that overall, unionization predicts an 18-33% drop in traumatic injuries and a 27-68% drop in fatalities. However, unionization is also associated with higher total and non-traumatic injuries, suggesting that injury reporting practices differ substantially between union and nonunion mines. Unionization’s attenuating effect on the predicted frequency of traumatic injuries seems to have grown since the mid 1990s.
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