The coal and oil industries are really trying to outdo each other these days. Massey Energy, the criminally unsafe coal mining and intimidation company, refuses to give workers time off to attend the funerals of friends who died in Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, the Washington Independent reports:
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.
“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?”
Such anecdotes aren’t easy to come by. Massey — the top coal producer in Appalachia — has built a reputation of intimidating its workers into a type of lock-step compliance that most often takes the form of silence, particularly when the subject revolves around safety in the company’s mines. The reason is clear: Massey is the economic engine in parts of West Virginia, and there’s a lingering fear among many workers that any grumbling could leave them unemployed. Some former employees said this week that the reluctance of Upper Big Branch miners to discuss the conditions inside those tunnels prior to the blast is no accident. [Emphasis mine.]
Bet the offshore drilling folks are hoping this takes some attention away from the rig that collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico today.
Our running tally of fossil-fuel industry disasters of late:
- The oil rig explosion, which injured 17 workers, left 11 missing, and is spilling crude oil and possibly diesel into the Gulf.
- The awful coal-mine explosion that killed 29 men under the criminal safety record of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.
- The crash of a coal freighter into the fragile Great Barrier Reef as it tried to take a shortcut from Australian mines to Chinese furnaces.
- The Tesoro oil refinery explosion that killed five workers in Washington state.
- The spillage of 18,000 gallons of crude oil from a Chevron into a canal in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
Remember, the people making money off these businesses are the ones fighting hardest against a clean-energy bill. They say this is the best we can do.