Thursday, April 08, 2010

Worker Safety Call Out

Thank goodness there are a few responsible people willing to call something out for what it is. And what this is, is a call out to right-wing BS.

For any of those who may have a real conscience, consider this as a call out. For any of those who don't, consider this as contempt for your lack of morals...

Ed Schultz, April 7, 2010 transcript excerpt:

SCHULTZ: It’s going to take a miracle for rescuers to get to the four trapped West Virginia miners and get them out alive. That mining company had thousands of safety violations over the years. This has me convinced that we need an investigation into criminal negligence. I’ve got a commentary next here on MSNBC.


SCHULTZ: Rescue crews were not able to rescue and resume the search. Methane gas levels underground are still too high. Crews continue to drill holes to ventilate the area and hopefully restart the search. Meanwhile, the Labor Department is launching a special investigation into safety conditions at the mine, and they should.

“The Charleston Daily Mail” reports that the mine has had 3,000 safety violations in the past 15 years. It was cited as recently as last month for improper ventilation. Last night United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard told me the mine would have been much safer if workers had been unionized.

LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS: The CEO of Massey promotes himself as a union buster. He promotes himself as having a record of fighting unions wherever they show up in his workplace. If he spent as much time helping the workers get a union, helping us then clean up his workplaces, we wouldn’t have these fatalities and he wouldn’t have these fines.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Gerard, are you willing to say tonight that if these workers had been members of a union, this would not have happened?

GERARD: I can absolutely say that if these members had been member of a union, they would have had the right to refuse unsafe work in our collective agreements and they would have been able to refuse that work.

SCHULTZ: And I have to tell it like it is tonight, folks. This is all about the man, the man in the front office who took home over $19 million in income in 2008. This is about the man having his foot right on the neck of the middle class, having his foot right on the neck of those mine workers.

In an economically depressed area of West Virginia where there is no economic development, this is what they do. And in the midst of all of that, without regulation, they’re allowed to abuse workers. You see, because if they don’t go down in that hole they lose their job. And all these right wingers in this country who are attacking the middle class and attacking labor in this country, you need to go to these funerals because there’s going to be 25 of them and maybe more. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the other four. It doesn’t look real good at this hour.

But here’s the point. Unions not only — this is just — I can’t believe we’re having this discussion in this country as if we have to vilify collective bargaining, where a family can be protected from dangers in the workplace and there won’t be the man on the neck of that worker, the neck of that family and those kids who are now missing a loved one.

Criminal negligence, homicide, you name it. The Congress has to get into this once and for all. President Obama, you need to get involved in this.

This is what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about. Where there’s not going to be intimidation, where there’s not going to be retribution against employees who just think about organizing in the workplace because they’d like to go down into a workplace where they’re not going to lose their lives. Where it will just increase the safety in their area. Is that asking too much? Is it all for the dollar bill in America? This is morally wrong. There is absolutely no difference between what these guys did in the front office at this Massey Energy Company than what these guys did down the street on Wall Street to folks who were ripped off. This is a matter of life and death. That’s what this is.

And you know what we’re going to do right now as Americans? We’re all going to sit at the dinner tables tonight and we’re going to ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it? And so when I see these rallies out there with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and they claim to be for the working folk of America, show me.

Have the guts to stand up for these families that are now in tragic loss. Show me, you Republicans, show me you care. Show Americans that you have a heart and you have a soul and that you don’t despise American workers who just want a fair shake in the workplace. I’m really biting my tongue right now.

Sometimes I wish I was on HBO, but this is where I belong, and I started this show a year ago to fight for the middle class and now we have some dead people on our hands. And now we have Republicans who are saying that, well, the Employee Free Choice Act is not the right thing to do. We have the United States Chamber of Commerce throwing lobbyists and millions of dollars against those families who would like to have a chance to get some protection in the workplace.

Do you believe that this company was genuinely addressing the safety violations? No. I could go on for hours, but this is where we stand in America. It’s an ideological divide. Some people care about the working folk of America. And some people flat-out don’t give a damn. I don’t think Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, I don’t think they give a damn.

I couldn’t support a Republican right now if you cremated me with them. I couldn’t warm up to a Republican if you cremated me with them right now.

They are against the middle class in this country.

Mine deaths spark criticism of operator's record

Mine owner ran up serious violations

Mine cited for broken fresh-air system

Extracting coal remains a dangerous proposition. Could more labor unions help?

Want Safer Mines? Unionize Them
Without the big move to non-union operations that has been plaguing the coal industry for more than two decades, there's a good possibility that 25 dead and four missing miners in West Virginia tonight would be sitting down to dinner with their families instead of being mourned by them.

For those in peril in the dark...
The CEO of Massey Energy is Don Blankenship. The same Don Blankenship who invented a scandal and funded it to the tune of $3 million to run one one state supreme court judge out of office for the crime of siding with workers. The same Blankenship who was photographed cavorting along the French Riveria with another justice while his company had a $77 million case before the court. The same Don Blankenship who regularly condemns the whole idea of environmental protection, saying that global warming does not exist and that asking people to conserve is tantamount to communism. The same Blankenship and the same Massey that last year was convicted of massive and systematic age discrimination. The same Blankenship and the same Massey who were ordered to pay $30 million in environmental damages after running up fines that actually topped $2.5 billion.

Most critically this is the same Blankenship and the same Massey who lost miners as recently as 2006 due to lack of safety equipment. At the end of that case, the widows of the dead men refused to accept the settlement, stating that it was clear that the company executives had placed profit ahead of safety. [...]

Whatever happens, let's not forget that without constant attention and championing of the cause of safety, it's all too easy for any company to forget that these are men and women in their charge, not just corporate assets.

Blankenship's Bloody Coal Mine: A Deluge of Violations
Over $2.2 million in fines have been assessed against Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine since 1995, with $791,327 paid. Massey is contesting $1,128,833 in fines. Massey’s delinquent fines total $246,320. [MSHA]

Massey is contesting $251,613 in fines for citations for Upper Big Branch-South Mine’s ventilation plan. [MSHA]

Compare those fines to coal mine owner Don Blankenship's compensation package of $19.7 million in 2008. He could pay those assessments out of the change in his sock drawer. He fights them and runs a delinquent account instead.


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