Saturday, December 24, 2011

Long-Overdue Justice for Dying Miners

Black Lung. It sounds medieval, a scourge like Plague and Childbed Fever that should be relegated to history books.

But it is still killing coal miners throughout Appalachia, smothering them slowly and painfully until they cannot work, cannot walk, cannot breathe.

Many times, they have to watch their families suffer financially at the same time, because Kentucky makes dying miners jump through fiery hoops to get the benefits federal law requires.

No more.

Coal miners sickened by years of inhaling black dust on the job have been subjected to an unconstitutional system of medical screenings to quality for worker's compensation, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.A sharply divided high court decided that Kentucky has violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law by requiring miners suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung, to undergo a litany of tests that workers in other occupations aren't subjected to when they apply for worker's comp benefits.In a 34-page decision written by Justice Will T. Scott, the high court found no "rational basis and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of coal workers."


Coal miners Jesse Gardner, Joe Martinez and others brought the case, saying Kentucky's law subjected them to a more stringent burden of proof than workers who suffer from pneumoconiosis from sources other than coal dust."Pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to coal dust is the same disease as pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to dust particles in other industries, yet coal workers face different, higher standard-of-proof requirements than those other workers," Scott wrote. "This is an arbitrary distinction between similarly situated individuals and thus it violates the equal protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions."


Prestonsburg lawyer Thomas Moak said Thursday the state's system for awarding worker's compensation to black lung victims is so stringent that most miners don't bother to try for it. Those who do apply and are confirmed by a panel of physicians typically don't qualify for enough money to cover basic living expenses."The current system provides benefits in less than 5 percent of claims," Moak said. "It's amazingly traumatic."

Coal-country legislators will try during the General Assembly session that begins in January to revise the 15-year-old state requirements. But that session already faces demands for yet more budget cuts, and loosening Black Lung requirements - thus increasing state costs by millions - is going to be a hard sell.

Look for more idiotic calls for privatization (which always costs more than paying state employees) and lethal program cuts for those without high-priced lobbyists (women, children and the disabled.)


PurpleGirl said...

Clean coal... don't make me laugh. No such thing, especially when taking it out of the ground.

c u n d gulag said...

I say leave the dirty shit there for a few more million years until the rats, or cockroaches, or whatever species takes over after we annihilate ourselves, can then mine it in diamond form.

This, of course, presupposes that we don't entirely destroy the planet, which may be a pretty damn big presupposition indeed.

But I have faith that the Earth can overcome the damage we do, as long as we're all gone, and given enough time.

Never Ben Better said...

Well, even if we scour life from the face of the planet, there's always the giant tube worms and such that'll cling on around the deep sea vents. Who knows what could evolve from them in a few tens of millions of years?

c u n d gulag said...

Isn't that already what modern Conservatives evolved from?

Sorry, I don't think of that as a positive. :-)

Tom Hilton said...

It's a good decision...let's hope it really translates into meaningful compensation for the victims.

Never Ben Better said...

I must admit, thinking of what could evolve from giant tube worms that feed on sulfurous eruptions of foul-smelling steam, my mind turned inevitably to Rush Limbaugh.

c u n d gulag said...

And Glenn Beck has to thank his ancestors, the piss-clams, for what he is today - a yapping bivalve with hair-brained conspiracy theories.
Only not as bright...

Never Ben Better said...

LOL! Thanks for that present, my friend -- my first out-loud guffaw of the day.