Rush was wrong, of course. Upper Big Branch is a non-union mine, as are the majority of Massey Energy's properties.
El Rushbo had claimed that the National Labor Relations Board ordered Massey to rehire 85 miners who claimed they were discriminated against because they were union members. Therefore, in his view, the UMW had a responsibility to make the mine as safe as possible. He jabbed that the union is generally holding mining companies up for all kinds of safety measures. Apparently, Limbaugh believes mining is a job as safe as bloviating on the radio for a few hours each day.
The AFL-CIO points out those miners cited by Rush were actually at another Massey mine. Massey CEO Don Blankenship is appealing that decision just as he has appealed many of the safety violations brought against his company. The UMW has attempted to organize the Massey mine three times, but has not been successful.
Blackenship is noted for his strident anti-union views, and vowed to shut down the mine if the workers demanded a union. Jobs are pretty scarce in coal country.
The AFL-CIO blog set the record straight for Limbaugh. Unfortunately, its audience is a tiny fraction of the millions who tune into Rush. They now believe the UMW is as liable for the disaster as Massey is. The damage to the union has been done.
The UMW tried to play a role in the aftermath of the Upper Branch disaster. It sent a rescue support team to Upper Branch because “we are all brothers and sisters in the coalfields at times like this,” said its president Cecil Roberts. Massey officials turned the team away. The company must have thought it would be bad PR for the union to play a role in rescue operations.