When Don Blankenship, was the CEO of Massey Energy, his company routinely ignored safety violations at the coal mines it operated until one of them blew up, killing 29 people and ruining hundreds of lives. Now, he wants everyone to know that he’s the one who really cares about miner safety, that it’s the unions’ fault that his mine killed all those people, and also Congress’s and the Mining Safety and Health Administration’s.
In fact, he says, nobody will see how broken the whole system is until there’s another disaster, presumably at one of his associate’s mines, and everyone realizes how much it’s the union’s fault and not his.
“I am concerned that it will take at least one more tragedy wherein those then in charge of MSHA and Congress will be under pressure to consider what I have written that predicted the likely cause of the next tragedy,” he writes in an essay on his personal website, DonBlankenship.com.
And what has he written that we should heed? How is the system that allowed he, the multimillionaire executive, to profit off of perpetual safety negligence, broken? According to he, Don Blankenship? Honestly, I have no idea—most of his “essay” is an incoherent screed against how the coal mining unions are all run by power-hungry tyrants and one time in the 80s they assassinated another union guy so they actually the hate coal miners they’re supposed to protect. He then goes on to claim that the coal unions are secretly “anti-coal” and are actually using their “tyrannical powers” to push pro-Obama propaganda.
It is perhaps the most warped thing that I have read all week. He says something about unions wanting to idle scrubbers sometimes, but I’m not sure how that would cause a massive mine collapses. Other than that, there is literally no mention of anything that might improve mining safety, nor any admission of any share of the blame. Or, for that matter, any notion at all that coal mine operators might have room for improvement.
I do know that while Don Blankenship was at the helm, the Upper Big Branch Mine accumulated 1,342 safety violations in just five years. In fact, there were 57 safety infractions cited the month before the disaster alone. Blankenship and Massey ignored them all. Then that mine exploded, and it killed 29 people. I also know that little has been done to address the lingering concerns of the killed miners’ families, even years after the tragedy, and that some have taken to filing lawsuits against the executives in charge for their negligence.
One claims that nine Massey executives "routinely, intentionally and explicitly placed corporate profit ahead of the safety and lives of miners...which routinely led to unwarrantable and flagrant violations" of mine safety law.
Blankenship eventually stepped down as CEO, and one of his underlings has been criminally charged. But perhaps they are all just deeply misunderstood. Maybe, as Blankenship insists, we need only wait for the next disaster at one of the mines they refused for years to fix up to see that it was the unions’ and the safety inspectors’ fault all along.