Miners want another hearing on drug testing rule

The United Steelworkers (USW) and the United Mine Workers (UMWA) have sent letters to Asst. Secretary of Labor Richard Stickler asking for additional hearings and a longer public comment period for its proposed rule on mandatory drug and alcohol testing for workers in the mining industry.  In one press account, the public hearings yesterday were called a “Logistical Nightmare.”   In the USW’s letter, HSE Director Mike Wright wrote:

“…hundreds of witnesses were effectively prevented from testifying in Birmingham and other locations even though they were present on the site — or more accurately, in the parking lot.”

He continued:

“We are not critical of the videoconferencing format itself…but field hearings necessarily require a day in each location, while in this case the Agency tried to cram seven locations into one day, using facilities that were grossly inadequate.”

“MSHA should also extend the period for written comments for at least two week after the transcript of those hearings is available in the electronic format.  A month would be better.”

The letter from the United Mine Workers noted:

“While literally hundreds of miners have foregone a day of work and wages in a futile attempt to participate in this hearing — no small matter in these dire economic times — we renew our request that MSHA establish additional hearing opportunities, and that it provide ample prior notice, along with an extension in the comment period.”

As the Steelworkers’ Mike Wright indicated in his testimony at the public hearing yesterday:

“We believe this rule is unconstitutional and unnecessary, and we continue to maintain that MSHA’s best course of action would be to withdraw it.  But if the Agency proceeds, it must do so with great deliberation, a complete record, and fairness to all participants.”

Amen.

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