Tips for Coal Industry Whistle Blowers

Are you concerned about dishonest practices at the coal company where you work?

Insiders are often the only individuals who have the knowledge to prove corrupt acts are occurring – acts that threaten the public welfare. Given the results of unsafe mining conditions and financial instability of the coal industry, it is essential that mining and corporate workers – those who have firsthand knowledge of complex wrongdoing that can damage our health and our economy – feel empowered to raise concerns. It is the duty of all citizens to sound the alarm whenever actions threaten regional, national or world scales.

 



Truth-tellers make a Difference

“I’ve had workers say, ‘Why do you work here? Why do you fight the company?’ Well, I don’t fight the company. They fight themselves… I’ve got a purpose in why I do it, and the more kicking they’re doing, the more good I must be doing.” – Charles Scott Howard, Appalachian coal miner  

“The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.”  – Frank Serpico

“I did what was right… have no regrets and would do it again.  As you see, we were just ordinary people placed in some extraordinary situations and did the right thing.”  – Jeffrey Wigand, tobacco whistleblower featured in the film The Insider


 Things to Consider when Deciding to Speak Out

Deciding to become a whistle-blower or an anonymous insider is a serious decision and a whistle-blower lawyer or a whistle-blower advocacy group can be in the best position to advise you on your options, the law, and potential consequences for coming forward.  This flyer by no means provides you with all of the answers, but if choose to expose bad behavior by your employer for the public good here are some things you may want to keep in mind as you begin your journey:

  • Anonymity can protect you, and technology can both be an aid to staying anonymous or can cause you to reveal your identity by accident.  Research email encryption, how metadata works, how to scrub documents, and ways to remain anonymous before disclosing information.  

  • Consult a lawyer if you are unsure if you can obtain or disclose information legally and to find out about your rights including whether you may be eligible for a whistle-blower reward.

  • Keep meticulous records of your conduct and your employer’s conduct and any retaliatory action toward you.

  • Have a well thought out plan that considers what you want to accomplish, who will support you or corroborate your account, and the consequences of coming forward before you act.  


 

Resources for Blowing the Whistle

 

Contact advocacy groups and media sources with information regarding violations. Information often does not get out to the public when reported solely to agencies.

 

The National Whistleblower Center: www.whistleblowers.org

  • Hear stories from other whistleblowers and the impact they have made

  • Read answers to frequently asked questions

  • Find resources for taking the next step

Project on Government Oversight: www.pogo.org/report-corruption/

  • Read the “Art of Anonymous Activism”

  • Find tips for protecting your anonymity in electronic communication

  • Submit information on your company’s work with the government

 

For best practices on leaking documents and information, visit ClimateDocLeaks’ how-to page: www.climatedocleaks.com

 

For best practices for reaching out to press with sensitive information, visit InsideClimate News’ site: http://bit.ly/1ooYlUs

 


 Know Your Rights

 

Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation under both state and federal law. Several federal whistleblower protection laws apply to coal industry (mine worker and corporate) whistleblowers. The Occupational Safety and Health Act Regional Office grants federal protection to all whistleblowers.  If you face punishment and/or any form of workplace discrimination for whistle-blowing, you can file a complaint with your local Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) administration office. State laws vary significantly. Consult an attorney to learn about protections that apply to you.

 

For more information on the federal Whistleblower Protection Program visit www.whistleblowers.gov.

 

 


 

Council and Legal Support

 

If you are punished or discriminated against in any way for reporting safety, financial, or environmental violations, contact an attorney. For additional consultation contact Climate Doc Leaks.

 

If you believe you have information to disclose and want to request assistance from the Government Accountability Project, please fill out our intake format http://bit.ly/1qlAZkc, or call our intake coordinator at (202) 457-0034, ext. 143. Every attempt is made by GAP to respond. PLEASE NOTE that any contact with an officer or employee of GAP, or GAP's consideration of your case, does NOT constitute GAP's agreement to represent you, unless an authorized GAP officer has explicitly stated so in writing.

 


Report Violations to Agencies

 

Mine Workers in Southern Illinois Call...

  • OSHA Region 5 office (Chicago): (312) 353-2220

  • OSHA Southern Illinois district office (Fairview Heights): (618) 632-8612

  • MSHA anonymous hazardous condition complaint hotline: 1- 800-746-1553 or via http://1.usa.gov/1SqiFwT

  • Additional resources can be found at MSHA.gov and OSHA.gov

 

Workers in St. Louis Corporate office call...

  • OSHA Region 7 office (Kansas City): (816) 283-8745

  • OSHA Eastern Missouri district office (St. Louis): (314) 425-4249

 


 

Spread the Word

Feel free to use the following flyers. Contact us if you would like an editable version.

 

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