"If anything happens to me, I'll be looking down from heaven at you all. I love you. Take care of my baby. Tell her that daddy loves her, she's beautiful, she's funny. Just take care of my baby girl."
Those were the chilling words in a note from Josh Napper, a West Virginia coal miner who was killed in the Massey mine explosion on Monday.
The note was written to Napper's girlfriend, Jennifer, over Easter weekend -- just days before his fears were realized. It was described to CNN's John Roberts by Pam Napper, Josh's mother.
Pam also lost her brother and nephew in the blast.
Josh's daughter, Jenna Leigh, is 20 months old.
Pam went on to describe the safety problems her son had experienced before at the same mine, as well as a powerful religious experience he had just prior to his death.
To date, Blankenship has largely succeeded in purging union members from his company’s ranks. Only 1.8 percent of Massey’s workforce is unionized. One miner who was employed by Massey for 25 years said that working for Blankenship was “like living under a hammer. It’s all about the bottom line, we all know that.” In 2007, the National Labor Relations Board determined that Massey’s refusal to hire union workers was illegal.
But if the Upper Big Branch miners were unionized, there’s a greater likelihood that the mine would have been safer. Since 2002, less than than one-fifth of the total mine worker fatalities have occurred at unionized mines. And the reason is simple: workers at a unionized mine are not afraid to report unsafe working conditions. “I can absolutely say that if these miners were members of a union, they would have been able to refuse unsafe work…and would not have been subjected to that kind of atrocious conditions,” said United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard.