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Coal mine safety: do unions make a difference?

Morantz AD
Stanford, CA: Stanford Law School, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 413, 2011 May; :1-35
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 about a 17-33% drop in traumatic injuries and about a 33-72% 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.
Coal-mining; Coal-miners; Underground-mining; Underground-miners; Work-practices; Workplace-studies; Safety-climate; Safety-practices; Safety-research; Work-environment; Injuries; Mortality-data; Traumatic-injuries
Alison D. Morantz, Professor of Law & John A. Wilson Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Stanford Law School, Crown Quadrangle, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305-8610
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John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 413
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Stanford Law School, Stanford, California
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division