Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference?

Posted: 2 Feb 2013 Last revised: 1 Dec 2013

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 1, 2013


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 ë80s. 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 2010. I find that unionization predicts a substantial and significant decline in traumatic 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 is associated with a 13-30% drop in traumatic injuries and a 28-83% drop in fatalities. Yet unionization also predicts higher total and nontraumatic injuries, suggesting that injury reporting practices differ between union and nonunion mines.

Keywords: safety, mining, mine, mines, MSHA, union, unions, Mine Safety and Health Administration, UMWA, United Mine Workers, injury, injuries, underreporting, reporting bias

JEL Classification: J28, J51

Suggested Citation

Morantz, Alison D., Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference? (January 1, 2013). Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 66, No. 1, 2013, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 441, Available at SSRN:

Alison D. Morantz (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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