The New York Times has a bizarrely hagiographic piece today on Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey, which owns the Upper Big Branch mine. Blankenship’s mine suffered the largest disaster in American mining in decades, costing over 25 workers their lives. Rescue operations are ongoing, but Blankenship is in full spin mode and the Times praises his efforts to not have as large of a bullseye on his chest as he should. The Times piece raises up his anti-union efforts and largely ignores the repeated safety violations and cavalier attitude towards safety that Blankenship displayed leading to this tragedy.
Blankenship is an avid climate change denier and has spent more than his fare share of time as a rightwing political funder and Teaparty agitator with the Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps if he spent more time focusing on the safety and rights of his employees, and less being a political hack, this disaster could have been prevented.
Moreover, it’s downright offensive to praise this chump’s union busting savvy and personal professional successes while the bodies of his miners have yet to be put in the ground. Stories like this don’t happen on their own and it’s hard to doubt that Blankenship and the Massey PR team placed it to improve his public image now.
Jonathan Chait at TNR makes a good observation:
But the general portrait of Blankenship is a figure utterly contemptuous of anything that stands in the way of profits. The risks of a business strategy that places low wages above experienced workers and disdains regulation are fairly clear. The Forbes profile emphasizes the risks to Blankenship’s stock value, but of course the costs imposed upon workers and the environment are even greater.
Blankenship must be held to account for these costs, as should his company. Being an ambitious businessman does not obviate him from culpability in at least twenty-five deaths.