The West Virginia Gazette published a short article titled “Former Massey official pleads guilty in safety probe, says he conspired with CEO”. The headline does not immediately reveal the repercussions of this “safety probe”—you know, like the fact that this conspiring resulting in the deaths of many miners.
Former Massey official David C. Hughart admits CEO Don Blankenship helped plan a “decade-long conspiracy to violate mine safety laws and cover up the resulting hazard.” Hughart is charged with two federal crimes: “one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the government by thwarting U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to violate MSHA safety standards.”
These crimes led to, the paper writes, “the deaths of 29 miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.”
None of this happens in a vacuum. We must remember these crimes, like any other, within their cultural context. Those miners’ lives don’t matter, to Big Coal. To corporate power, they’re just miners—disposable, replaceable miners.
We must remember, up until, even past, the turn of the 20th century, mining corporations considered their mules more valuable than their human workers.* Humans were replaceable if they died. All the company would have to do is pay a new (ostensibly “identical” automaton, in their eyes) worker the same miserable wage. If a mule died, however, the company would have a buy a completely new mule. These mules cost new capital investment. They were bought slaves. Humans were rented slaves.
For emphasis, to convey how incredibly immoral and sociopathic Big Coal has been from the very beginning, let me repeat here: Their mules were more valuable than their (rented) humans.
So, let’s bring it back to today. Of course the deaths of these miners, deaths indubitably caused by Blankenship and his cronies, won’t be considered in murder charges.
The sad thing is this is only one layer of the systemic injustice here. Even if these human beings’ deaths were actually considered as, you know, actual human beings’ deaths, Blankenship needn’t worry. White collar crime isn’t punished in the U.S.
Don’t be silly. Blankenship is a hero, not a villain! I mean, just look how many jobs he’s created!
Think back to our most recent “recession”—or the incessant series of depressions before that, of course (at least every 10 years you can expect another. How many CEOs were arrested?
I clearly don’t even need to answer.
This mass murderer is not going to see any jail time in our laughable corporate Justice System.
What do you expect? In neoliberal capitalist rhetoric in this country, “white collar crime” is practically synonymous with economic “freedom” and with economic “progress.”
One final point here. Let’s look at the charges here.
For starters, let’s face it, the only person that’s going to be punished in this case is the only honest person in this case: Hughart. There’s justice for ya’.
And let’s look at who’s charging him: the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. This is part of the U.S. Department of Labor; this is not the EPA.
All the while, however, ignorant right-wing bigots claim the EPA is waging a “war” against coal, is “preventing economic ‘progress,'” is “destroying jobs” (but never lives—or the planet, which means lives).
Why? ‘Cus the EPA, like the rest of the government, is completely bought and sold.
Big Coal is killing and swindling us now—and killing and swindling all future generations; it may very well be the end of us.
The EPA’s not going to save us. Only we can save us. The EPA can help, if we whip it into shape, but it all comes down to us, to organizing our communities, and to fighting back against corporate tyranny.
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– Carpenter, Kathryn. Stories from the Arroyos. “Smithy.” Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2011.
– Smith, Donna Campbell. The Book of Mules: Selecting, Breeding, and Caring for Equine Hybrids. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2009. 25.