The Price of Life

Source: James Green, Jacobin, April 2016

Like many coal bosses before him, Massey Energy CEO Donald Blankenship put profits before workers’ safety. … While the loss of life in the Montcoal explosion was the coal industry’s worst since 1970, the tragedy fits into a pattern of corporate malevolence going back more than a century. …. American coal miners learned the hard way that they could only rely on themselves and their labor union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), for protection while they toiled underground. They knew they would get no help from the federal government: the Bureau of Mines, created in 1910 and controlled by leading industrialists, had no regulatory or enforcement powers of any kind. …. That pattern persists to the present. Since 1995, 330 non-union coal miners have been killed at work, compared to 88 UMW members, according to the union’s health and safety department. ….