Miners Forced to Attend Romney Rally

Miners Forced to Attend Romney Rally August 31, 2012

Remember when Mitt Romney appeared in front of a group of coal miners in Eastern Ohio a couple weeks ago? It’s now been revealed that the company that owns the mine required the miners to attend — and that they had to give up their pay for the day to do so.

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney was welcomed for a campaign event at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, by hundreds of coal workers and their families. Now many of the mine’s workers are saying they were forced to give up a day-worth of pay to attend the event, and they feared they might be fired if they didn’t, according to local news radio WWVA.

The claims have been mostly denied by Rob Moore, Chief Financial Officer of Murray Energy Company, which owns the mine. He acknowledges that workers weren’t paid that day but says no one was made to attend the event. Well, kind of.

“Our managers communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend,” he told local news radio WWVA, which has received several emails from workers claiming that the company records names of workers that don’t attend those types of events.

Well that clears it right up — it was mandatory but no one was forced to attend. Right.

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  • Christoph Burschka

    Well if it was only mandatory, that’s okay, that’s not coercion. It’s not as though “mandatory” means you have to do it, or anything.

  • erichoug

    Isn’t it amazing that the corporate stooge that made the announcement didn’t see any contradiction?

    I have seen several examples of such corporate cluelessness in my life as a wage slave, but rarely one so breathtaking.

  • Maybe he’s saying the managers were lying, and that there were no actual consequences for failure to attend.

    I’m not sure how that would be better, but it would make his words actually mean something.

  • den1s

    wait a minute….. where is their union rep and union local in all of this? And if they are not unionized…. well, time to get some representation. Someone is going to take the company to court for that day’s pay…. and win, imho.

  • Mr Ed

    I don’t see the problem when your lord and liege asks you to do something you do it.

  • Ben P

    I’ve written a couple of posts about this elsewhere. I smell an FLSA class action if enough workers are upset about it, but a day’s wages wouldn’t be much even in a class action, so the chances of it are low.

    If the employees were required to attend the campaign event but were not compensated, there’s a reasonably good chance that’s an FLSA violation. There is no strict definition of working time under the FLSA, but it covers situations where the employee “voluntarily” works overtime hours but is not paid for them.

    It’s not certain, but my hunch is that saying the employee’s weren’t “forced” in the sense that “you appear or you’re fired” wouldn’t cut it as a defense.

    The company also argues that paying the employees to appear at the campaign event would violate federal elecction laws. I’m not so sure that’s really true, but I’m by no means an election law expert.

    What I do know is that election financing laws typically prohibit a corporation from providing “in-kind” services to a campaign outside of donation limits or for compensating employees for providing donations or those services.

    The kind of things that are prohibited might include promising an employee a $250 bonus if they donate $250 to the Romney campaign or forming an employee that they are free to volunteer for the Romney campaign and they should just submit the volunteer time as if they’d worked hours. Etc.

    On the other hand, where you’re hosting a campaign event in your workplace, during work hours, but the campaign event is disrupting the normal operations of the workplace, I have my doubts that keeping your employees “on the clock” but allowing them to attend the event wouldn’t be a violation of campaign finance law.

  • slc1

    Hopefully, those miners will retaliate on election day by voting 100% for Obama.

  • scrutationaryarchivist

    …no one was forced to attend…

    Let’s remember that force was not used, and would not have been used, against these people who are associated with the company of their free, individual will.

    And we must remember that only the state has the means of illegitimate coercion. Who hires them to use it is not your concern.

  • d cwilson

    You know, there was a time when Montgomery Burns was considered a parody of a corporate CEO.

    I really don’t have anything to add to that.

  • Mandatory. You keep saying this word. I do not think this means what you think it means.

  • abb3w

    Exactly how is this not a violation of US federal law, both labor and election?

  • Ben P

    <blockquoteExactly how is this not a violation of US federal law, both labor and election?

    My money says that requiring the employees to attend but failing to pay them WAS a violation of labor law.

    On the other hand, a private company merely requiring its employees to attend a political rally held in their workplace probably is not in and of itself a violation of labor law.

    And as long as they employees aren’t doing anything for the campaign, (just being in the crowd at a rally) that’s maybe not a violation of election law. I don’t know election law that well.

  • Stevarious

    Well that clears it right up — it was mandatory but no one was forced to attend. Right.

    Oh, this particular equivocation is a religious one. After all, you are required to believe in jeebus but no one is forcing you to. You have free will, and are perfectly welcome to choose to go to hell instead of obeying jeebus.

    So in this case, the miners were required to go, but no one was forcing them (like, actually putting a gun to their heads) and they were perfectly free to choose unemployment instead.

  • I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The best thing we can do for coal miners is to move them someplace that doesn’t have coal.

  • briandavis

    Maybe the mine owner considered attendance at the event to be “mandatory” in the same way they consider following safety regulations to be mandatory.

  • StevoR

    Whats the bet they’re going to keep digging themselves an ever deeper hole on this one?

    Oh well, its something the democratic Party can mine towinthe eletion ain’t it.

    (I know, I know, I won’t give up my day job .. )

  • ButchKitties

    Republicans are against the use of “force” but don’t acknowledge that economic threats, such as the threat of being fired, are a type of force.

    They use the same reasoning when it comes to rape. The only real rapes are forcible rapes, and “forcible” means “someone threatened you with a weapon”.

  • Ed, do you have an award for the best use of Newspeak? “Mandatoryunforced would make a good candidate.

  • grumpyoldfart

    You’d think at least a few of the miners would have kicked up a stink, refused to attend, and called up the unions and the media outlets.

    How come they just went to the meeting? What’s going on?

  • hackerguitar

    I have heard (but haven’t been able to confirm) that it was a non-union mine. If that’s the case, the workers have very little recourse…it’s another terrible wrong brought to you by the GOP, the party of ‘I’ve got mine, get lost!’

  • You’d think at least a few of the miners would have kicked up a stink, refused to attend, and called up the unions and the media outlets.

    How come they just went to the meeting? What’s going on?

    The whole point here, if the basic story is correct, is that these are not free people. If you depend on your job to put food on the table, then your boss has a lot of power over you. If the boss threatens to fire you if you don’t do something, your choices are not free. Whistle blowing will likely get you fired and blacklisted.

    I suspect that these miners are not unionized, which would have at least given them some power to push back. The entire political agenda of the mining companies, strongly supported by the Republican party, is to take down the unions, eviscerate labor laws, and to make sure that these people remain in a state of economic desperation. It helps if you defund their education, retirement security, and healthcare too.

    The story got out because some of the miners spoke to a local radio station about it, which is why the corporate PR guy showed up to “defend” his company. Note that unlike the miners, the PR flack did not have to make an anonymous phone call.

  • Good thing that they didn’t hold it on August 6th, that was the five year anniversary of the the Crandall Canyon mine disaster–another property owned by Murray Energy.

    Considering the general level of distrust, feistiness and firearms ownership amongst the coal mining fraternity I am surprised that Mr. Murray is still amongst the living. I am, however, unsurprised that he is not in jail. Kill a man while wielding a pick-axe spend the rest of your life in jail. Kill a man who’s wielding a pick-axe, collect a nice year’s end bonus.

    “You’d think at least a few of the miners would have kicked up a stink, refused to attend, and called up the unions and the media outlets.”

    The problem with big unions is that they have MANAGMENT of their own. Big salaries, cushy digs, generous expense accounts and other percs of the employer are provided for the bigwigs at the union, as well. Not all unions, of course, but far too many.

  • dean

    I heard that they got out of the not paying the workers by shutting down operations for the day, and company policy is not to pay employees when that occurs.

  • caseloweraz

    Dean, I hadn’t heard that but it’s an interesting angle. It suggests that foregoing a day’s production and profits was balanced by the prospective political benefits that the company expected.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    If this mine was unionized, then shame on the union. If it wasn’t, well, I’ve hear an awful lot in the past year that while unions may have been necessary in the past, they are now unnecessary, because the conditions have changed and they’re no longer needed. Right.

  • dean

    Caseloweraz, that could be. I took it as a crude statement of “hey, they never get paid while things are closed down. What is the big deal””

    Different scales of scummy behavior on their part.

  • I am sure that had the Obama campaign done something like this that the GOP would applaud them for doing so. NOT.

    It appears that there is a wee disagreement between the Romney Campaign and Murray Energy on whose idea it was to close down the mine for the event (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/08/28/romneys-coal-mine-speech-under-fire.html).

    Oh, what tangeld webs we weave…