Thursday, March 1, 2012

Massey Mine official a 3 year sentence. 29 workers go to their graves.

Memorial to the dead Massey miners
A former co-worker and good friend of mine served five years some time back for robbing a bank, or attempting to rob a bank.  He had a gun, which wasn't a good thing, but he was always a decent guy driven by desperation like many of us are at times, to do the wrong thing.  His inherent decency ensured that he never put any bullets in the thing.

So, this working class man serves five years.  In contrast, I read today that a former Massey Energy Co. official was sentenced yesterday to three years for "obstructing" the government's criminal investigation in to the explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey's W. Virginia facility. The official was convicted in October and prosecutors were asking for 25 years. 

The official, Hughie Stover, was the top security guy at the mine.  He was convicted of lying to federal investigators and obstruction for "ordering the destruction of more than 50,000 documents" the Wall Street Journal reports.  Investigators concluded that the explosion was the result of the Mine's management's "failure to follow standard safety procedures that should have prevented a small methane ignition" from becoming the massive explosion that led to the deaths.

The judge gave the three years as opposed to the 25 prosecutors were seeking because although he burned 50,000 documents that hid who knows what, the prosecutors didn't provide evidence that Stover "directly caused" the explosion.  She admonished him as he "held a position of trust" and that he clearly had a "willful intent to deceive."

How long safety was ignored  and to what extent safety was ignored was ignored in favor of production and profits we won't know thanks to the burning of important evidence.  It's the same as the BP spill that killed eleven workers.  There won't be too many people going to jail for that.  The CEO of BP got a demotion to Russia and a $1 million a year salary for his punishment.

The federal OSHA program is a joke. I always used to comment in our safety meetings that Cal OSHA had 20 inspectors and 500,000 workplaces.  These were figures I just threw out there to make a point.  But it is not a government agency that is designed to work unless it cannot avoid doing so.  The state apparatus that, as Marx pointed out was but the "Executive Committee" of the bourgeoisie (the owners of industry, the finances houses etc.) will not have within it an agency that puts workers' interests, including safety, above profits no matter what it's public proclamations.  It will ensure that it is either short staffed or exists in such a way that it is ineffective. They tell us that cuts in social spending etc. is because there's no money yet we know this not to be the case. As the piece by Michael Roberts pointed out the other day, public expenditure crowds private capital out of the market which means that profit making is adversely affected.

Abuses and safety violations occur especially in private industry every minute of every day in the nation and the world's workplaces. In the workplace there are two sources of power, the boss, which has the backing of the state and its laws; and the organized workers.  A strong, conscious organized workforce is the best protector of our rights and our bodies----in the individual workplaces and in the nation and the world.  Global Unionism along with global political struggle, is one of the ways we can and must fight global capitalism.  While we can sometimes use the courts.  They can only be an adjunct to organized workers' power in politics coupled with mass direct action. We can't rely on the courts to protect us at work no more than we can rely on them to protect us in society as a whole.

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