Posts Tagged ‘Don Blankenship’

Don Blankenship: Wanted man?

Despite the intense media glare focusing on the BP man made disaster engulfing the Gulf, the leaders of Massey Energy haven’t been able to slink away unnoticed. Thanks in part to your efforts, they are being held accountable for their roles in the preventable deaths of the 29 West Virginia miners in April.

So far, over 14,800 American Rights at Work activists have signed our petition to fire Massey CEO Don Blankenship (Sign here if you haven’t yet). And over 1,000 people showed up at the company’s headquarters in Richmond, VA, to protest in person.

There hasn’t been an immediate and total victory – Blankenship and other Massey leaders haven’t been fired or arrested – but there’s been amazing progress towards accountability so far. Read more »


Big shocker: Unions improve mine safety

We’re not making it up, people: mineworkers who belong to unions have more freedom to raise safety concerns without fearing retaliation.  That’s according to workers who testified at this week’s congressional hearing on the Upper Big Branch disaster.  As one worker put it, “As a union person we have the right to refuse to do work we think is unsafe,” whereas at a non-union mine like Upper Big Branch, “if you refuse, they tell you to get your bucket and go home.”  And if workers quit because of safety concerns?  They’d be barred from working within a 90-mile radius of a Massey mine.

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“Last century”

Did you miss Mickey Kaus’s anti-union rant in the LA Times on May 3? If so, you didn’t miss much – he took up one of the right wing’s favorite past times: throwing rocks at public sector unions. Our favorite part, though, was Kaus’ gigantic backhanded compliment to the labor movement:

Unions have done a lot for this country; they were especially important when giant employers tried to take advantage of a harsh economy in the last century, not only to keep down wages but to speed up assembly lines and, worse, force workers to risk their lives and health.

The last century? Where’ve you been, Mickey?

We’re living in the age of Don Blankenship, whose opposition to organizing and profits-over-people mentality lead to the deaths of 29 miners last month. We’re living in the age where Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in the country, cuts the wages and benefits of its workers despite record profits, blatantly violates labor law– and is seen as a role-model, not a bad apple, by the business world. And we’re living in a time where violating our nation’s labor laws – flexible as they are – results in nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Critics are welcome to cherry-pick the real or perceived failures of individual unions. The truth is that the labor movement’s job is definitively unfinished, and unions are the best vehicles for workers to advocate for their rights and safety.

Threats to workers’ “lives and health” aren’t relics of the past. They are alive and well in 2010, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Pundits on both sides of the spectrum would do well to acknowledge it.

(Also see Susan Lowitz’s response to Kaus’s column.)


Fight like hell for the living

Cross-posted from

As our friends at Interfaith Worker Justice point out, “Mother Jones is often quoted as saying, ‘Pray for the Dead, Fight like hell for the Living.’” While all of us continue to hold the victims of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in our thoughts and prayers, we are also renewing our commitment to stand up for workers’ rights. As has been widely reported, the mine had been repeatedly cited for safety violations:

Massey Energy is actively contesting millions of dollars of fines for safety violations at its West Virginia coal mine where disaster struck yesterday afternoon…This deadly mine has been cited for over 3,000 violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 638 since 2009…

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