Strange Bedfellows – Estranged Allies
Give the coal companies credit. When they can’t win by means of their superior wealth and political power, they revert to the devious method of divide and conquer. They have done a superb job in separating those who would traditionally be the allies of Labor from those who labor. Those who are concerned about saving enough of West Virginia so that future generations will have at least some idea of what our state was like before the exploiters got to it are the natural allies of Labor since they see this as in the general topic of justice for the Earth and its inhabitants. The coal companies, who have never given a damn about laboring people except how to use them for maximum profits, are in a new alliance with Labor on the recent issue of mountain top removal (MTR). They have cleverly clouded the issue, oversimplifying and distorting the truth concerning the facts of MTR.
Who are the players here and what are their tools? The players are the exploiters, the coal companies, and the exploited, the West Virginia countryside and its human inhabitants (including the miners since what few jobs there are put the miners on the boom-and-bust yo-yo, promise and disappointment). Assists from the politicians on the side of the exploiters grease the wheels of exploitation. Politicians, unfortunately driven by the desire to win the next election, uniformly make the wrong decisions for what is best for the people. Has it ever been different? Rarely, if ever, at least in West Virginia.
The tools are well-paying short-term jobs and the propaganda mileage that the coal companies can use to accompany them. These jobs seem attractive to many but are available to few. Even one such job has much propaganda value and can be used to precipitate all kinds of nonsense with the populace. By putting out the minions paid millions of lawyers, lobbyists, media mouthpieces and "professional" organizations, the coal companies can wreak a lot of havoc with the truth. Sadly, even the schools in some counties are subject to this exploitive propaganda. It is not only unacceptable for school personnel to criticize coal, but down right dangerous. Children, at least the male ones, see a future in mining as some children do in professional athletics -- hundreds of young adults competing eventually for one job. And don’t discount the "girls’ auxiliary" of coal consisting of girls who dream of the day they can marry and settle down with a coal miner.
The illusion must be maintained of jobs, jobs , jobs! This incessant Pied Piper cadence continues to lure folks away from long term gain for short term profits, and has worked time and again for the exploiters. The long term benefits from extractive companies, whether they be in the mining industry or forest products industry, has always proven to be detrimental for the majority of the citizens who live in those regions. I know of no exception to this rule – if there is one, let me know about it!
The trend is always for fewer jobs and for more huge and environmentally destructive machinery. Coal companies find it a most undesirable thing to have to make any use of labor. They would rather spend $150 million on a giant machine to take the tops off mountains than hire 20 additional miners to extract coal in a more benign way that would maintain the continuity of our mountains and save our streams and water. If the companies were to invest that $150 million at 5%, the return on this would amount to enough to hire 75 miners at $100,000 employment cost per year. But the coal companies want control – with fewer persons and better paying jobs for miners to compete for, the coal companies will sacrifice some profits to get their employees to be their apologists and supporters, to herd in the union and to have better control of production. If they could get machines to do all the work they would be glad to do it.
So it is a shame that now Cecil Roberts has gotten into the act in a blunt attack on those who are the natural allies of Labor, the environmentalists. It is sad to hear him use that absurd term, "environmental extremist" which has been so often used inappropriately on concerned citizens of this state. It is tragic to see him take the UMWA into the camp of the exploiters and of their lackey, Underwood.