If Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship, had been confronted by strong unions, things might have been different. Lives might have been saved, and this despicable turn of events might have been avoided.
Massey Energy, the Virginia-based coal giant that runs the Upper Big Branch Mine, has denied time off for miners to attend their friends’ funerals; has rejected makeshift memorials outside the mine site; and, in at least one case, required a worker to go on shift even though the fate of a relative — one of the victims of the April 5 disaster — remained unknown at the time, according to some family members and other sources familiar with those episodes. In short, the company might be taking heat for putting profits and efficiency above its workers, but it doesn’t appear to have changed its tune in the wake of the worst mining tragedy in 40 years.
That’s all that matters to Massey: profit. Profit over lives. The very people who make him money are expendable. But dollars aren’t.
“They told my husband, ‘You’ve got a job to do and you’re gonna do it,’” said the wife of one Massey miner, referring to the funerals he’s missed this month for friends who died in the blast. “What else are we gonna do?”
What else, indeed.
The culture of fear is everywhere. It’s in politics, it’s at gun rallies, at Tea Bagger protests, white supremacist gatherings, and now it’s directed at those who lost loved ones:
“I guarantee it: Massey’s already told these guys, ‘Hey, don’t say nothin’. You’re not talking to no reporters. You’re not saying nothin’ about our safety record — or you won’t have a job,’” said Chuck Nelson, a former Massey miner who’s since become an environmental activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “That’s the way they operate.”
That’s the way they operate. There isn’t a heart anywhere in Blankenship’s body. He and Cheney should start a club.
Massey wouldn’t even let a mourner hang a wreath at the entrance to the mine. Nice people skills, Don. Bully much?
“When we were all union, if there was something that came up, it wasn’t no problem at all to shut that mine down until everything was fixed.” said Nelson, who worked for nearly 20 years in union mines before Massey took over. “Non-union [workers], they ain’t got that right.”
Massey ain’t got nothin’ right.