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Coal Company Kicks 10,000 Workers off Health Care

Coal Company Kicks 10,000 Workers off Health Care

Written by Chris Tackett

Coal miners have a surprising ally in environmentalist and climate activist, Bill McKibben. Writing at Bloomberg, McKibben highlights the infuriating story of corporate socialism at Missouri’s Peabody Energy Corp., now known as Patriot Coal Corp., or as McKibben calls it “America’s Dirtiest Coal Company”:

In a corporate sleight-of-hand, the promises won with a lifetime of hard work and hard bargaining disappeared first into a holding company. Now, if the bankruptcy judge agrees, they will disappear into thin air.

Or, to put it more explicitly, here’s a handwritten note from Shirley Wells of Sullivan, Kentucky: “Over the years thousands were killed in explosions, fires, roof falls, and many other accidents. … Many others suffer from the slower death called black lung disease … confined to their homes, dependent on oxygen.”

If Patriot has its way, they won’t have the medical cards that pay for their treatment. And as one miner after another points out in the letters, they bargained hard for those cards, preferring guaranteed medical care over higher wages precisely because of the toll the work took on their bodies.

If you’ve ever got the sense that some environmentalists consider the fossil fuel industry as being evil, it is stories like this that are to blame. So you might be surprised to see the 350.org founder and climate activist defending coal miners, but just like advocating for action to address climate change, defending these workers is the right and moral thing to do.

There’s a famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

An appropriate remix of this quote could be, “I like fossil fuel workers, I do not like the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel industry is so unlike fossil fuel workers.”

By this, I mean to say that by and large, the laborers that work in the fossil fuel industry are probably good, hard-working people. Many of these people are supporting families and simply doing the work available in their region. And we mourn for their families when they are killed on burning oil rigs or in exploding coal mines or suffer economic injustice.

Environmental debates are often framed with an Us Versus Them dynamic. If we are to achieve our goal of protecting the environment for future generations, we should strive not to let the debate be seen as a fight between environmentalists versus fossil fuel workers, but rather a fight between moral or immoral choices. As much as environmentalists may dislike the fossil fuel industry and want to see it put out of business, McKibben is right to highlight the immoral actions of Patriot coal and the gross injustice of treating workers in this way.

Read the rest of the story for more infuriating detail and how McKibben proposes future climate legislation should take care of fossil fuel workers.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

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Photo: nottsexminer/flickr

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150 comments

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2:23PM PDT on May 9, 2013

Yet another pathetic attempt by big coal to kill off their employees.

3:40AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Thanks ObamaCare and unions!

8:21PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

Welcome to the world of Obama, and it will get worse. Wait until you get asked your private health information on your taxes that should be a treat. Then they can turn you down for those little pre existing conditions. Force you onto Obamacare. Then you will have everything just right. Bet those ppl who voted for him just love him to death. Obamanus is closing half the cola plants in this country, and guess what that means your electric bills are going to go higher like sky rocket. In case anybody hasn't figured it out yet Obamanus is out to break the backs of middle class and do away with them all together.

3:41PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

Australia 1975
Austria 1967
Bahrain 1957
Belgium 1945
Brunei 1958
Canada 1966
Cyprus 1980
Denmark 1973
Finland 1972
France 1974
Germany 1941
Greece 1983
Hong Kong 1993
Iceland 1990
Ireland 1977
Israel 1995
Italy 1978
Japan 1938
Kuwait 1950
Luxembourg 1973
Netherlands 1966
New Zealand 1938
Norway 1912
Portugal 1979
Singapore 1993
Slovenia 1972
South Korea 1988
Spain 1986
Sweden 1955
Switzerland 1994
United Arab Emirates 1971
United Kingdom 1948

Countries with Universal Healthcare

Aren't American citizen's lives not worthy enough ?

6:27PM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

Awful

6:21PM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

awful.....but this is what happens when profit is the only motivator?!

5:57AM PDT on Mar 29, 2013

WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? D: That's so uncaring, dangerous and irresponsible. Don't do it!

12:59AM PDT on Mar 29, 2013

As if the job isn't hard enough already.

7:21PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Just wait until the Affordable Care Act goes into effect and you will see lots more people losing their health benefits or their jobs as healthcare becomes more and more UNAFFORDABLE and premiums go higher and higher.

And wait until the IRS begins adding the cost or monetary value of your health benefits onto your gross income, which will in turn, put you into a higher tax bracket and add thousands onto your income ta. Won't that be fun? And all this to fund the Affordable Care Act so that you and I can subsidize healthcare insurance for those who cannot afford it but who are forced to have it.

It's a brave new world that we are creating here.

7:08PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

It's not safe being in the front lines in the military and it's not safe being a fireman or a policeman. There are many jobs out there that are not only unsafe, but actually life-threatening and yet people CHOOSE to take up these occupations as their life work.

Outside of the draft, people are not forced to serve in the military; they are not forced to be policemen or firemen, and they are not forced to work in coal mines. While the corporations that operate coal mines should attempt to make working conditions as safe as possible; it's simply a dangerous job which exposes workers to lots of contamination and danger and there's no way around it. Unless employees are mentally deficient, surely they know what the risks are before they sign on to these jobs. But the pay is generally higher than average so people take the chance and take the risk of their own free will.

People have known about black lung for 150 years and yet they still CHOOSE to be coal miners, just as many still choose to smoke cigarettes.

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