Massey Energy, the coal giant whose mine
blast in mid-April cost 29 miners their lives, denied workers time off to
attend their co-workers’ funerals. According to one miner’s wife, “They told my
husband, ‘You’ve got a job to do and you’re gonna do it,’” referring to the
funerals that her husband missed due to work.
Workers explain that they are afraid to
take time off for fear of losing their jobs. “I guarantee it: Massey’s already
told these guys, ‘Hey, don’t say nothing. You’re not talking to no reporters.
You’re not saying nothin’ about our safety record—or you won’t have a job,’”
explained Chuck Nelson, a former Massey miner. Massey is the largest owner of
mines along the Upper Big Branch of Coal River in West Virginia.
A largely non-union shop, Massey has attacked
unions creating an environment where miners fear for their jobs if they report
safety hazards. While Massey grew over the past two decades, the number of
unionized miners fell by approximately 50 percent.