This guy! We haven’t seen Robert Murray since around election time and, to be honest, we missed him. He’s the closest thing we’ve got in the 21st century to an evil 19th-century coal baron, hellbent on profit and laughing heartily at the misfortunes of the poor. He’s retro. That’s always fun.
Last time we heard from Murray was when he sent a prayer to his local West Virginia paper lamenting how the reelection of Barack Obama meant he had to fire a bunch of his staff. (Was it the staff that he docked a day’s pay to appear in a Romney ad? Was it the staff he forced to contribute to his political action fund? We may never know.) So, wiping away big fucking crocodile tears, Murray wrote these powerful words:
The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance. …
Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build.
Then: boom, pink slips, because Obama is killing coal and hates white people, probably. Boo-fucking-hoo, Robert Murray is so sad.
Anyway, here’s the update. From New Republic reporter Alec MacGillis:
I was surprised when I got reports from Ohio this week suggesting that operations at the Red Bird West mine, the one whose shutdown was announced with such fanfare last summer, are now picking up again. “It’s opened back up…they’re hiring people,” said Gary Parsons, a former superintendent at the mine who worked there for five years before being laid off with the announcement of the shutdown last summer. Parsons himself has not been called back, and is planning simply to retire early, but he said he had talked to several locals who were taking steps to get hired back on. He said he did not understand why, after the big headline-making closure last year, things were perking up at the mine. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “They said they was going to close the mine down.”
Another former Murray employee confirmed that operations were picking back up at Red Bird West. “They’ve called back some hourly folks. They’re definitely starting it back up,” the former employee said. What explained the reversal? This former employee conjectured that presidential campaign politics may have played a role. After all, announcing the shutdown of the mine a few months before Election Day was not helpful to Obama, who dearly needed to win Ohio. “In my opinion, it was all for politics,” the former Murray employee said. “It was just a show of politics to try to scare people, to get votes for [Murray's] candidate…I felt they were playing politics from day one, and they certainly didn’t waste any time starting back up again.”
If this is true — and it would take as much for me to believe it is as it would take to convince me that I exist on this planet Earth — it’s almost admirable in its sheer, egregious shittiness. For all of the handwringing and wailing and moaning done by Obama opponents about how horrible he was making the economy and how doomed we would be if he won reelection (all while unemployment dropped and the Dow soared), it takes a special kind of scumbag to actually lay people off to prove your point. Much less to invoke the name of Jesus in doing so. Lord, please forgive Robert Murray for possibly closing a mine and firing people just so his massive investment in Mitt Romney might be substantiated.
When speaking to MacGillis, the company denied it was reopening the facility. However:
The only work going on at the mine, they said, was “reclamation” required as part of any shutdown. “We’re required to put things back together. We’re picking up some remnants of coal, some coal that was left over, as we clean up the place,” said Gary Broadbent, a senior attorney for the company. He said that there were 42 or 43 people at the mine doing this work, and while the work could go on for a few years, there would be no expansion at the mine, which at its peak employed more than 200 people. …
[T]he company’s current account would appear to be at variance with the announcement last summer, when Broadbent said that the mine would “gradually be closed through late September or early October,” with no mention of a possibly years-long reclamation project. After all, if the head count was really dropping from only 56 to 43, odds are the move would not have made the headlines it did.
Oh, and an addendum:
A former Murray employee in Utah informs me that people are being hired back at the Murray operations there, too, just a couple months after the big post-election layoffs. The former employee said about 25 had recently been hired back on. Murray officials demurred when asked about any uptick in activity at the Utah or Illinois mines where the post-election layoffs occurred. “I’m not intimately involved with the hiring or firing of employees,” said Broadbent.
Lord, when Robert Murray appears before you for his final judgment, feel free to use any and all information from Grist’s archive to make your decision. If you need me to appear as a witness, I will do so happily.
Sorry. Not when he appears before you. If.