Coal baron Don Blankenship’s Massey Energy has prevented miners from attending funerals of the 29 victims of the killer explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV. Massey has taken steps to keep up the mining in the grief-stricken community. The “threat of job loss” from Massey’s non-union mines, “be it spoken or simply understood — has created a culture of fear in some corners of Southern West Virginia, where coal is the only real industry, and Massey is king of the hill”:
Massey Energy, the Virginia-based coal giant that runs the Upper Big Branch Mine, has denied time off for miners to attend their friends’ funerals; has rejected makeshift memorials outside the mine site; and, in at least one case, required a worker to go on shift even though the fate of a relative — one of the victims of the April 5 disaster — remained unknown at the time, according to some family members and other sources familiar with those episodes. In short, the company might be taking heat for putting profits and efficiency above its workers, but it doesn’t appear to have changed its tune in the wake of the worst mining tragedy in 40 years.
“They told my husband, ‘You’ve got a job to do and you’re gonna do it,'” the wife of one Massey miner told the Washington Independent’s Mike Lillis, referring to the funerals he’s missed this month for friends who died in the blast. “What else are we gonna do?”
,Massey spokesman Troy Andes tells the Washington Independent: “We know of no instances when miners were denied a request to attend a funeral.”