Monday, April 12, 2010

Mine Disaster Raises Important Questions

The loss of 29 lives in a West Virginia coal mine has focused attention on two important issues.

The first is mine safety, of course. That issue has been brought into focus by the news that the mine operator, Massey Energy, has previously been cited many hundreds of times for safety violations. Mine owner, Don Blankenship, clearly doesn’t give a damn – as a practical matter, because paying the fine for most violations is cheaper than fixing the problem, and as an ideological matter, because Blankenship is a red-white-and-blue Tea Party member ... anti-gubmint, anti-union rants at rallies, church socials and bar-mitzvahs a speciality.

The second issue is the right of a miner to join a union. Blankenship has often bragged that he got the union kicked out of his company. It’s easy to guess why. Without the protection of a union contract, how many miners working for a guy like Don Blankenship would be willing to make an official complaint about a safety violation? Right. No one … certainly not anyone who wanted to keep his job.

We can only wonder how many of those 29 coalminers would still be alive if they had been in a union.


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