Meet Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Company. Blankenship is also on the Board of Directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. In this speech above, he denies climate change, derisively refers to Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and others as "greeniacs", and calls them all crazy. Watch the speech, you'll see. In his mind, "the greeniacs are taking over the world."
Massey Energy Company, Blankenship's highly successful strip-mining and mountaintop removal operation is the parent company of Performance Coal Co, where a tragic explosion occurred on April 5th. As of this writing, 25 miners have died and 4 more are still missing. Twenty-five families are without a loved one. Four more may discover they have lost someone they love too. 29 families in all, forever changed by one single, violent event in a coal mine. One single violent event in a coal mine run by a company so obsessed with profit it runs roughshod over employees' and neighbors' health and safety.
Here's something else about Don Blankenship and Massey Energy Company: Blankenship spent over $1 million dollars along with other US Chamber buddies like Verizon to sponsor last year's Labor Day Tea Party, also known as the "Friends of America Rally." Here's Massey's pitch. Note how he makes it sound like he isn't one of the corporate enemies of America.
The Friends of America Rally featured such notables as Sean Hannity, Ted Nugent, and Hank Williams, Jr., and was graced by Blankenship himself going off on a diatribe that seemed strange at the time, but has come to be commonplace these days. It concerned President Obama, Democrats, and any one who doesn't salute God, coal, and apple pie. Oh, and we're also going to 'steal their jobs,' if Hannity is to be believed.
Blankenship and Massey Energy spend millions to defend unsafe workplaces
Even while coal dust settles on nearby schoolchildren, there are lessons to learn from this disaster about Massey Energy in general, and Don Blankenship in particular.
It seems that Performance Coal's safety record is spotty, at best. From the Mississippi Business Journal:
Massey ranks among the nation’s top five coal producers and is among the industry’s most profitable. It has a spotty safety record.
The federal mine safety administration fined Massey a then-record $1.5 million for 25 violations that inspectors concluded contributed to the deaths of two miners trapped in a fire in January 2006. The company later settled a lawsuit naming it, several subsidiaries and Chief Executive Don Blankenship as defendants. Aracoma Coal Co. later paid $2.5 million in fines after the company pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges in the fire.
Massey and Blankenship also settled a lawsuit brought by the Manville Trust in 2007 with regard to workplace safety and environmental compliance.
The Manville Trust filed the case in July 2007 against company Chairman, CEO, and President Don Blankenship and certain other current and former officers and directors. The plaintiff sought several corporate governance reforms, specifically regarding environmental compliance and worker safety. Citing several incidents involving Massey Energy, including a major federal water pollution lawsuit, penalties for two coal miners' tragic deaths and other safety and environmental compliance problems, the lawsuit claimed that a "conscious failure" by the defendants to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and other legal obligations posed a "substantial threat of monetary liability for violations."
Keep unions out, let teabaggers in
Don Blankenship inhabits a strange and bizarre world. In his world:
- It's fine for elementary school-age children to inhale coal dust while playing at school because Massey Coal "already pays millions of dollars in taxes each year".
- Blankenship truly believes that government regulation means "we all better learn to speak Chinese."
- He has absolutely no problem paying $3 million to elect state Supreme Court justice Brent Benjamin just ahead of a scheduled hearing of his appeal to overturn a large damage award for driving competitor Harman Mining Corporation into bankruptcy.
- Blankenship will spend millions to keep the Massey Energy's workforce non-union, is perfectly happy to discriminate against union workers even if it means being sued and losing, and might hate unions as much as he hates 'greeniacs'.
This is the same mine where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that Spartan Mining illegally discriminated against 82 UMWA members by refusing to hire them because of their union membership status.
“This settlement highlights yet again the treacherous and backhanded manner Massey treated the miners who had worked at the Cannelton mine for decades,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “While it was discriminating against these experienced miners because of their age or union status, the company was at the same time publicly crying about the lack of experienced miners in the coalfields.
“But it wasn’t that Massey couldn’t find experienced miners,” Roberts said. “They were there all along and wanted to work. It was that the company would rather break the law than allow its employees to have a strong voice at work and the tremendous benefits of a union contract.
Penny-wise, pound-foolish. An investment in experienced workers trained in state-of-the art safety measures combined with OSHA compliance and mine safety measures might have saved at least 25, and possibly 29 lives.
Instead Don Blankenship spent that money and more on a US Chamber of Commerce corporate-sponsored tea party to convince good, hard-working honest people to work against their best interests.
I hope those families take a large pound of flesh from him in return.