Wow. The owners of this (non-union) mine make Mr. Potter look like Santa Claus.
Even aside from its abysmal safety record, Massey, and its leader, Don Blankenship, are almost cartoonishly villainous in the way they approach everything from the environment to union rights to media scrutiny. They've pioneered mountain top removal mining, a particularly destructive form of mining that dirties local water supplies, ruins animal habitats, and damages the foundations of nearby houses, all while eliminating much of the Appalachians. Massey refuses to hire union workers, and thus denies its workers an advocacy group that could press for, among other things, safer ventilation systems. And Blankenship himself has been downright thuggish to critics and reporters, grabbing an ABC news camera and saying the cameraman was "liable to get shot" if he kept taking pictures.
If you think this makes Massey unpopular among residents of West Virginia, where it does most of its mining, you'd be right. West Virginians overwhelmingly oppose mountaintop removal mining, and some politicians, like Sen. Robert Byrd and Rep. Nick Rahall, openly criticize Massey. But the effects are limited, as Blankenship has more or less purchased the state's government. He's certainly bought the state Supreme Court, spending millions to unseat a justice who had ruled in favor of mine workers. The court, including the new justice Blankenship had elected, soon thereafter reversed a $50 million judgment against Massey. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually had to demand a rehearing of the case with the new justice recusing himself, because the quid pro quo involved was so obvious. Similarly, when Gov. Joe Manchin proposed a bond not to Blankenship's liking, the businessman spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to sink it. After the bond vote, Blankenship sued Manchin, saying the governor's attempts to regulate Massey amounted to punishment of Blankenship for opposing the bond measure, and thus was a violation of his free speech rights.
Edited by Spectacles, 06 April 2010 - 02:02 PM.