Former UBB miner hopes to be a voice for his fallen ‘brothers’
Clay Mullins, Rex Mullins brother.
April 4, 2012 ·
Clay Mullins is a former UBB miner. He lost his brother Rex Mullins in the blast. New state law is also meant to empower families of mine victims.
“They robbed our family of something they can never replace."
Clay Mullins says the holidays are hollow without his brother Rex. He left a son, daughter, two granddaughters and another grandchild that he never met.
“It makes me feel sad, sad for Rex, and sad for the grandchildren because, Zoey, that’s her name, she’ll never get to see her papaw," he said.
"He’ll never be able to hold her talk to her give council to the grand-kids.”
Mullins testified at a congressional hearing in Beckley after the blast. As a former UBB miner, he considers all of the men his brothers. He speaks whenever he can because he wants to be the voice for the fallen miners.
“I feel better when I’m able to speak out and stand up for those men," he said. "That’s what makes me feel good because those men they can’t they can’t speak for their selves."
"I feel I feel responsible to speak out for all those men because they didn’t deserve to die like this. They didn’t deserve to die at all. They should have been working today.”
Under the federal Mine Act of 1977, two or more miners can elect what’s called a ‘miners representative.’ It’s meant to give miners a voice in non-union mines. The rep has the right to go along with the inspectors to point out problems and see what citations are written along with other things.
Mullins did not know that he had this right when he was a miner.
“At Massey now the miner’s never did go with the inspectors,” Mullins said. “It was always a foreman or the superintendent or the mine foreman and they would intimidate the inspectors.”
“They would get mad and cuss them and throw fits on them and stuff. You know they really intimated the inspectors.”
Mullins says upper management would not always have safety in mind when they were with the inspectors.
“When a boss goes he is answering to his bosses," he said. "They’re saying well don’t say nothing to the men about this. We’ll take care of it later or they would just ignore it like Massey did I mean they knew their rock dusting wasn’t right and they ignored it.”
Living UBB miners elected the UMWA and the law-firm Moreland and Moreland to be their representatives. However, they were not allowed to hear all the interviews.
The new state legislation allows families of those involved in a serious accident to elect a rep of miners. House Speaker Rick Thompson, sponsored the bill.
“You’re already hurting you’ve got the loss of a loved one,” Thompson said, "a lack of knowledge or a lack of knowledge or a lack of involvement, my understanding is that they would separate people in trailer and then have conduct hearings and cross the 200-300 feet away and they didn’t know what was going on there."
"You’re adding more injury to people that you shouldn’t be adding injury to when something like that occurs.”
Thompson knows something about losing a loved one in the mines. His father died in a mining accident before he was born.
Tomorrow, on the two year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, we’ll learn more about the rights miners have under current federal law and the new state mine safety law.