How about murder charges for the West Virginia mine CEO?
The Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia where 25 (probably 29) people were killed, it’s been extensively reported, was the site of more than 400 safety violations in 2009. Bob Ferriter of the Colorado School of Mines, who trains miners and mine managers and has reviewed Upper Big Branch’s safety record, told NPR this morning that “To get that many violations…you’re letting a lot of things go.” He said that the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration reported repeated
‘unwarrantable failures’ [which] means that, from your experience and education, you should have known not to do something…and you ignored it, and you went ahead and did it anyway…A lot of operators put production ahead of safety, and that’s a corporate philosophy…They gotta have so many tons per dayand they’re gonna get it one way or another and if they squeeze the regulations and put somebody in jeopardy they’re willing to take that risk…They got kinda sloppy…To get that many violations…you’re letting some things go.”
The other day in Los Angeles, a truck driver who crashed his vehicle and killed two people in the process was charged with murder. He had previously been so charged, but the judge threw out the charge and let the man’s trial on manslaughter and reckless driving charges go forward. The driver is now serving time in jail under conviction for those charges, and a new judge has ordered that the murder charges be reinstated.
So if a truck driver can be charged with murder for totalling his big rig and killing two people of whose existence he was not previously aware, how about throwing Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in jail for the rest of his life for the deaths of 29 people he employed? Blankenship was ultimately responsible for the fatal conditions in which these men were working; if he didn’t know of the violations per se, he should have directed, as a matter of policy, that any mine with “unwarrantable violations” be shut down until the problems are fixed.
How the fuck does an inherently dangerous workplace with more than one safety violation a day for an entire year stay open?
Speaking of which: Where was the Mine Safety and Health Administration in all of this? I’m not greatly mollified by the fact that Pres. Obama has ordered a report. Ooh! They have to give a report! I know first graders who’ve suffered worse consequences for their inaction. MSHA head Jospeph Main should suffer a worse fate than Michael D. “Heck of a job” Brown.
And Blankenship should be charged with murder. Maybe that will cut down on other mines operating with “unwarrantable violations.” Maybe if Blankenship or his underlings had acted differently, hundreds of West Virginians wouldn’t be going to bed tonight without their father, husband, or brother.
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