The Price of Coal: Greed and Corruption Kills 29 Miners

By Mike Kolhoff

“American labor is under attack, based on greed, based on ignorance, based on lies, based on fundamental misunderstandings about what our government’s core purpose is …”

The above quote is from a speech given by Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship at a coal-industry sponsored Labor Day celebration in 2009, the “Friends of America Rally” held near Holden, West Virginia. The event was an orgy of anti-union and anti-environmental debauchery attended by such intellectual luminaries as Ted Nugent and Lord Christopher Monckton, (former science advisor to Margaret Thatcher). The message of the day was clearly stated: unions are ruining America and global warming is a scam perpetrated by Liberal Terrorists. Common sense surely says it’s so.

Blankenship was not trying to be funny or intentionally ironic. The “labor” he spoke of was not the organized kind. It was the exploited kind; the kind Massey Energy wrings every possible dollar of surplus value from, then drop-kicks out the door. No, the irony of CEO Blankenship’s words was purely unintentional, and was no doubt lost on his audience.  The “attack on labor” he spoke of was from organized workers trying to better their lives and their working conditions in the face shameless brutality. The kind of “labor” Blankenship seeks to protect is the kind that labors under an overseers whip.

On April 6th, an explosion at the Massey Energy coal mine in Raleigh County West Virginia took the lives of 29 miners, workers from whom Massey Energy will extract no further surplus value.

“We are proud to provide Central Appalachia with good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced, and we will continue to fight to make sure they aren’t taxed or regulated out of existence.” Don Blankenship, chief murderer, Massey Energy Corp.

In the month prior to the deaths, Massey Energy incurred 57 safety violations at the Upper Branch mine where the explosion occurred, including violations related specifically to inadequate ventilation, the cause of the explosion. In 2009 alone, the Mine safety and health administration cited the Upper Branch mine with 495 separate violations and almost $1 million in fines[1].  Paying the fines (at their leisure) was cheaper than making the safety repairs. In 2009 Massey Energy made a profit of $104 million, double what they made in 2008, and this was specifically through cutting jobs (over 700) and cutting safety costs. Wall Street loves that shit.

Massey Energy has gone beyond their vicious disregard for workers lives. They have even denied other miners time off to attend the funerals of their 29 friends.  They have even destroyed makeshift memorials erected for the dead miners on company property.  In short they have proclaimed themselves the heartless enemy of all working people, and are proud of it.

Our hearts go out to the families of those 25 miners killed by capitalist greed, sacrificed on the altar of High Profits to the Free Market God. We work for a day when no person has to die to make money for the capitalist class.

[1] Source: The Guardian Newspaper and ABC News

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