There seemed to be an otherworldly presence in the hearing room Tuesday when a Congressional committee began formal consideration of new coal mine safety legislation.
I was physically far away, watching on C-SPAN, so I couldn’t tell whether the unseen spirits were the ghosts of the 29 miners killed three months ago in a preventable explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia — or the malignant aura of corporate power that seems to haunt the halls of Congress.
On February 13, 2010, the management at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine ordered an electrician to disable a methane alarm that kept going off, according to NPR. This is the equivalent of being annoyed that your fire alarm is going off, so you turn it off; then your house burns down and kills you and almost everyone inside.
It appears as though Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, in whose coal mine 29 people died earlier this year in an entirely preventable disaster, has been booted from the Board of Directors of the US Chamber of Commerce.
As recently as June 29, Massey was listed as a member of the Chamber’s Board. But now, his name doesn’t appear on the list of current board members, and his specific profile page has been deleted from the website.
After yesterday’s hearing on new mine and workplace safety legislation in the House – legislation necessary because of the negligence of Don Blankenship’s Massey Energy in the deaths of 29 miners earlier this year – Massey Energy’s press office made a funny.
In order to combat the clear evidence that Massey puts profits over worker safety, the coal company thought it would be a good idea to show just how supportive miners are of the company’s record. Massey claims 97% of its coal miners believe safety is important to the company.
Tomorrow afternoon, Congress will once again take up new legislative proposals to improve coal mine safety. After decades of repeated mining disasters, countless unnecessary deaths and injuries, and continual demands for remedial action, can Congress finally get mining safety legislation right? The outward signs are not encouraging.
CTEH is the company contracted by BP to monitor air levels as they related to recovery worker safety in the Gulf of Mexico. The firm, which has a sordid history of covering up corporate environmental disasters, just released new data with BP yesterday that shows disturbing levels of toxic dispersants in 20% of offshore recovery workers and 15% of near-shore workers. But these just aren’t any toxic dispersants. It’s the same chemical blamed for chronic health problems in Exxon Valdez recovery workers that is now poisoning at least one-fifth of BP’s offshore recovery workers.
Yesterday I went to GRITtv and spoke with host Laura Flanders and Louisiana author Jordan Flahrety about BP’s exploitation of working people in the Gulf Coast. We discussed just a few of the many problems facing fishermen, recovery workers, and residents of the Gulf that are all at the mercy of BP.
Barack Obama voiced his solidarity with union members and opposition to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement with bold, courageous words in defense of the dozens of union members killed every year in Colombia. Oh, sorry, That was in 2008. Sen. Barack Obama promised to stand firm in his opposition to the
In the wake of Blanche Lincoln’s surprise victory in the runoff election for the Democratic nomination of Arkansas’ Senate seat, top officials in the White House and Senate derided labor unions as “absolute idiots,” and “Washington special interests” who “flushed $10 million down the toilet” for supporting challenger Bill Halter. DSCC Chair Bob Menendez even had the gall to say he expects labor’s “support, you know, financially” in “all of our races across the country.”
It seems Menendez will get his wish. Sam Stein reports that labor unions plan to step up – you know, financially – for Democratic candidates across the country in 2010 to help stem the tide of a massive influx of corporate cash this cycle.
Hundreds of workers in the Gulf Coast cleaning up BP’s oil disaster have reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, and headaches, but those “almost all have been heat related,” according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.
Barab – a former worker health and safety blogger at Firedoglake and his blog, Confined Space – says that despite widespread assumptions that workers are sick from exposure to oil, “we haven’t really found that yet.”