Fighting for Justice in the Coalfields

Huffington Post profiles ACLC client and mining industry whistleblower Charles Scott Howard

From Charles Scott Howard: The Miner Who Took On Big Coal, by Dave Jamieson:

A career coal miner, Howard was headed to the posh hotel to testify at a public hearing held by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a regulatory arm of the U.S. Department of Labor. Howard bore a reputation throughout much of Kentucky coal country as a stubborn and fearless whistleblower, and just about any miner in the area who hadn’t already heard his name would hear it by the following morning. […]

Over the course of his journeyman’s career, Howard has worked in more than forty mines, most of them south of Harlan and Letcher counties, and he and Oppegard have filed around 10 MSHA complaints with the help of Oppegard’s colleagues, Stephen Sanders and Wes Addington of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a public-interest law group in Whitesburg. Howard’s career has coincided with the decline of unions in mining and other American industries, so he generally has no one but his lawyers behind him when he takes on his employer.

“Scott is extremely rare,” says Celeste Monforton, a former MSHA official who’s investigated the mining disasters at Sago and Upper Big Branch. “It takes a certain level of social consciousness to recognize the power struggle between a worker and an employer.”

The mining community in Letcher County certainly recognizes the power struggle, as well as the risks Howard takes in entering it. Howard’s wife, Susie, said she occasionally gets stopped at the supermarket by other miners’ wives who quietly thank them for his latest spat.

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