By Penny McQuaig
While waiting for the search effort of the four coal miners still missing after an explosion that killed 25 of their colleagues in the worst coal mining disaster in two decades, I had to reflect on several issues that I hear repeated over and over again. The first is that it is the worst disaster…it seems to me that it is always the worst until the next one.
This W. Virginian mine is owned by Massey Energy Co., which has been sited for numerous safety violations. CEO Don Blankenship has disputed accusations from miners that he puts profit ahead of safety….Sound familar? The problem is that the miners who work for Massey Energy Co. do not have a Union, which is my second issue. Coal miners used to be 98% union. They are now 27%. I then looked further into who was Don Blankenship and found that he is well-known as a right-wing crackpot and global warming denier, but in order to give a brief picture of him in relation to this disaster, I’ll start with a description of Don by Rolling Stone Magazine:
“The country’s highest-paid coal executive, Blankenship is a villain ripped straight from the comic books: a jowly, mustache-sporting, union-busting coal baron who uses his fortune to bend politics to his will. He recently financed a $3.5 million campaign to oust a state Supreme Court justice who frequently ruled against his company, and he hung out on the French Riviera with another judge who was weighing an appeal by Massey. “Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office,” Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia once observed. “He would be twice as accountable and half as feared.”
Take notice of the UNION-BUSTING for this seems to be the flavor of the day by the haves against the have-nots. We as union have not taken on the fight with the same vigor that the opposition has. This is not only a danger to the entity we know as Union but it is costing lives such as those in W. Virginia.
A report from the March 28, 2007, hearing on Protecting the Health and Safety of America’s Mine Workers released by the House Committee on Education and Labor contains the following statistics for the five-year period of 2002-2006:
Underground coal injuries: 19,282
In union mines: 5,362 (or 27.8% of total)
Underground coal fatalities: 109
In union mines: 22 (or 20.2%)
According to the United Mine Workers of America, in 2007-2009, there were 45 underground coal-mining fatalities. Six of these were in union mines. Thus, for the 15-year period, less than one-fifth of the fatalities occurred in union mine.
We must begin as soon as yesterday, to be on watch and be concerned, interested and willing to learn new ways to fight back, and how to stand up for one another as UNION. The right and the rich are fighting with all the monies and rhetoric they have. We as Union have lost a lot of ground in the last 20 years. The corporations, knowing that we are only concerned about our union, our backyard,etc., has begun to pick us off one by one. We must think Nationally, Internationally as the Brotherhood of One, if we are to survive this assault called UNION BUSTING! If we don’t stand up for union rights internationally, the corporations will continue to send your work overseas to places that they control and can therefore pay slave wages. This brings down wages and safety standards for everyone, everywhere. But for now, I can surely say that I am glad that I have someone (UNION) to watch over me!!!!