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Massey urges federal coalfield violence law

Published: Saturday, September 21, 1985
Page: P1A
Byline: ED PEEKS

E. Morgan Massey, president of A.T. Massey Coal Co., called Friday for a federal law to deal with violence in the Southern West Virginia coalfields.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., voted against an attempt this week to pass such a law, Massey told the Charleston Rotary Club.

"Union violence is ruining any chance that West Virginia has for attracting other industry to the state," Massey said.

A bill to amend the Hobbs Act was tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Byrd voted with other members of the committee against the bill, Massey said. "An effective Hobbs Act is necessary to insure reliable mechanism for dealing with large-scale industrial violence," he said. "An effective Hobbs Act would solve the problem of union violence here in West Virginia and save the state further embarrassment." He said the 11-month strike by United Mine Workers against A.T. Massey subsidiaries shows that local and state law-enforcement agencies are incapable of dealing with the problem.

"Local authorities frequently lack the resources necessary to deal with massive acts of union violence," Massey said..

"Furthermore, as is the case in West Virginia, they are unwilling to act when to do so would force them to take a position against one or more competing local interests.

"Also in West Virginia, local law enforcement people are elected. The sheriff is elected, the judges are elected, the prosecuting attorneys are elected. You know that the United Mine Workers has the special privilege of levying funds for election contributions against the mining company payroll. With this cash, the UMWA exerts extraordinary influence over the political process ." The Moore administration has kept state police at the scene of confrontations between union and non-union workers, Massey said.

This is in contrast to the hands-off and no-side-taking attitude of the Rockefeller administration, he said. "Gov. Moore and the state police have done more than any other administration," Massey said in answer to a question.

He cited a long string of violent actions that he attributed to union members and leaders, going back to 1981. "On May 14, 1981, Cecil Roberts, now international vice president, led a march of 300 union fanatics armed with guns and gas cans to burn out the Elk Run Mine buildings and hospitalized two more Elk Run employees." In February, UMW President Richard Trumka "called on his membership to escalate the action against A.T. Massey companies," Massey said. "The next day, the road leading to the Mingo County mining operations of Rawl Sales & Processing was blocked by hundreds of masked picketers," he added.

Massey said the strike has resulted in 745 broken windshields, 1,677 destroyed truck tires, 178 vehicles burned or destroyed, four dynamiting incidents, more than 28 homes shot up or damaged, 75 injured employees - one permanently disabled - and the death of a truck driver.

A.T. Massey has obtained 23 federal and state injunctions against the UMW, naming union officials for specific acts of extortion, destruction of property and personal injury, but "not one union member has been found guilty or fined for his actions," Massey said. "No more than a handful have been brought forward for prosecution." A jury trial is under way in U.S. District Court in Charleston on a suit against the UMW by Elk Run Coal Co. in Boone County.

Massey said his company had "offered the union practically everything they asked for," but UMW representatives turned down the offer at the last negotiation session. The UMW wants A.T. Massey to bargain for its subsidiaries as a whole, but Massey has insisted that the union deal with each individual company.

Cecil Roberts said earlier this month that the union stood ready to sign an agreement reached in principle with Massey representatives in April, but since then they have come back to the bargaining table asking for one change or another.

Massey was non-commital Friday on the prospect of any agreement in the next six months. He said continuing violence remained a problem. "The union ought to obey the law," he said.

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