Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Great Moments in American Business Leadership

In West Virginia the last of the bodies from the worst mining disaster in the last 40 years have finally been recovered. In the time since the tragedy began, the country has come to learn about one of the more odious shits in American business, which is saying a great deal. His name is Don Blankenship and he is the CEO of Massey Energy.

Aside from running a mine that racked up 3,000 violations and $2.2 million in fines, he is someone that virulently fought against any kind of regulation or oversight. He got stooges and cronies of his chosen by Bush to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act with predictable results, busted unions, constantly downplayed worker safety, declared it more important to "run coal" than follow things like safety regulations, derided obvious and necessary laws, decreed all his opponents were like bin Laden, threatened and assaulted reporters, and became a darling of the Fox News Hannity set. He really earned the titles "evil bastard" and "the 7th scariest person in the US" that Grist dumped on him.

So now it's kind of funny to look back and see the kinds of things he said about safety, regulation, and government oversight now that this disaster happened. Not "funny- haha", but more of a "funny- people are dead because of this man" type thing. Which is to say, not funny at all.
At his Labor Day anti-union rally last year, Massey CEO Don Blankenship attacked the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), claiming it “seeks power over coal miners.” He mocked both “Washington politicians” and local elected officials who attempt to ensure miner safety:

We also endure a Mine Safety and Health Administration that seeks power over coal miners versus improving their safety and their health. As someone who has overseen the mining of more coal than anyone else in the history of central Appalachia, I know that the safety and health of coal miners is my most important job. I don’t need Washington politicians to tell me that, and neither do you. But I also know — I also know Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming.
You really need to thee the video in the link, he literally draped himself in the American flag when he said this. But it's interesting that he says that the idea that anyone cares more about safety than him is as silly as global warming. One, literally anyone in this country could be seen as caring more about miner safety, as long as they don't end up resetting the "greatest mining tragedy" record before Blankenship does.

Secondly, as silly as global warming? You mean an easily tested a proven theory that has the almost universal support of the scientific community? You're right, Don. That sounds almost as ludicrous an idea as letting someone who won't literally exchange bodies for money look after workers. I guess it's one of those far out ideas like "venting methane gas from a mine". I bet some egghead scientist told you that'd be a problem too. You sure showed them.

Not that it's all bad news and mining tragedies for Donny. He hit a bit of good luck today as Standard and Poor upgraded Massey stock from Hold to Buy, noting that the financial impact of a mine exploding and killing 29 people would be immaterial to the bottom line. Hey, sounds like Blankenship was vindicated. He can trade lives and safety for money. Good for him. I guess everything worked out.

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