I received the following which includes a letter from a member of the West Virginia mining community which clearly identifies with the miners in the UK. The Washington Post has printed articles about how the private ownership repeatedly ignored warnings about safety violations and how lobbyists on Capitol Hill have managed to safety blunt regulations. The letter explains how in more detail.
On Monday 5th April 2010 at least twenty-five miners were killed in an explosion in the shafts of a West Virginia mine. The SLP sends its deepest condolences to their families and friends and to all the miners and families affected by this avoidable tragedy.
It was avoidable because the owners of this privately owned mine have consistently disregarded safety warnings. Literally hundreds of warnings over the last twelve months alone have been issued and subsequently ignored as the company put the desire for increased profit above the lives of the mineworkers.
The SLP has received a letter from a resident of West Virginia and we publish it below with his permission.
Letter from West Virginia
I am just writing to say how much I admire Arthur Scargill and the miners.
I come from a coal mining region where coal is a commodity. It is not a resource. The companies view coal production as something to make money, not to provide energy.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the coal mine explosion that happened at a Massey mine in West Virginia. 25 people are dead because the company refused to drill shafts to allow methane to escape. Four miners remain missing, and the methane levels in the mine right now are too high to even consider a rescue attempt (assuming they are still alive).
If 29 people are dead, this won’t be the worst mining disaster in the US in two decades. It will be the worst since the 1970’s.
Why did this happen?
The mining companies waged wars against the UMWA. They used the economic crisis of the mid-1980’s to cut back on hiring new miners. They got mechanized. They switched to strip mining. They got leaner, and they got meaner. The strong UMWA, which organized in Southern West Virginia in what were some of the bloodiest labor struggles in our nation’s history, was broken. Only 20 percent of all coal miners in West Virginia are union.
So nasty were the coal companies to these people that in the 1984 election. Dukakis won West Virginia handily. Dukakis was, of course, a let down in every way, but he wasn’t George HW Bush. They voted Democrat because of what Reagan did to them.
With no unions, the companies only have to use campaign money to control regulation. If regulations get tough, they call on their poodles in the state Democratic Party to pull back the regulators. The Democrats lie to the miners. They tell them they are for them, but they are really for the coal companies. The Democrats know that if they got tough, the Republicans would get all of that campaign money.
Blood drips from the hands of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s hands. (He and Lord Monckton are good friend. That should tell you everything about the slime ball). He hates unions, and anyone who criticizes him is a communist. (Of course, in my case, is that really much of an insult?) He’s sued everyone who criticizes him for libel. The law is different over here, and almost all of his cases are thrown out.
But you still have to get a lawyer and go through a day of court.
The people of West Virginia were small farmers before the Civil War. We were part of Virginia, which was a slaveocracy. It was impossible to have plantation agriculture in the mountains of the northwest of Virginia, which border on the industrializing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. When the Civil War happened, this part of Virgina left Virginia and joined Lincoln’s army, although there were areas where Southern sympathies were strong. It became a bloody civil war in the mountains.
When the war ended, the farms were destroyed. People were poor, and they needed money. The speculators came and offered royalties for their mineral rights for a fraction of what they were worth. They went along with it.
And thus began the pillage.
The people didn’t take it lying down. We had actual mine wars in the 1920’s. The US Army actually dropped bombs on an army of miners who were trying to organize in the Logan and Mingo County coalfields.
Blood also drips from the hands of the politicians who let this happened. They are culpable as Mr. Blankenship. They let him get away with all of this, and now 29 people could be dead.
That’s what happens in this banana republic.
I could go on and on with mine and other union stories from WV, but all I can say is that since the unions have gone, racism and extreme Christian Zionist fundamentalism have taken over. That’s all people think about. The blacks and the Mexican taking their jobs and tax money (they assume they are all on the dole). And the End of Times.
This is what the private coal industry has done to us.