Whistle-blowing miner protected

March 19, 2013 

It was good to see Kentucky's Mine Safety Review Commission give a unanimous vindication last week to whistle-blower Mackie Bailey.

But it's still dismaying that Bailey had to defend himself in the first place, since his actions might well have saved other miners from injury or death underground.

Bailey's testimony and photographs were critical to convicting Manalapan Mining Co. and three of its supervisors of serious violations of federal mine safety law at a Harlan County mine where a miner was crushed to death last year.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick H. Molloy and Tracy Stumbo, chief accident investigator for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, testified on Bailey's behalf at last week's hearing, saying he should not be punished.

Whistle-blowers often end up as scapegoats. Within the coal industry, especially, there is what Molloy called a "code of silence."

State prosecutors should not have been part of scapegoating Bailey and enforcing that sometimes-lethal code of silence.

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