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jobs versus environment

Laid Off

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, August 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Over the past four years we have witnessed an amazing downturn in the coal industry. Mines all throughout Appalachia have closed, leaving thousands of coal miners and their families in dire straits with difficult decisions to make. For as long as the coal industry has existed they have placed the people of Appalachia at the mercy of their booms and busts. Each time coal companies face a choice between decent profits now or leaving the coal in the ground until they can make excellent profits, we know what they choose, and we see what happens to the decent hard working coal miners who have already given so much of themselves to the company’s bottom line.

Had these layoffs come 75 or 100 years ago, they would have hurt, but the blow to mountain families would not have not been nearly as severe. Our ancestors had been weary of becoming entirely dependent upon coal mining wages for their food supply and shelter. They didn’t trust banks. They’d known the bondage placed on them by company script, company stores, and perpetual debt. For many, it was a matter of pride to be without debt, for others it was a source of freedom.

As my grandfather tried to teach us, “It’s your wants that get you in trouble, not your needs.” But theirs was also a different time. When they lived, there were still enough woods to hunt in and run their hogs. The water coming out of the mountain sides and out of family wells was still good enough to drink. Extended families still owned enough land to graze mule teams and a dairy cow, and they could still plant enough food for themselves and sometimes for their livestock. Today, many of the miners being sent home from the coal mines do not have a farm to go home to. They cannot spend their idle time using their hands to provide for their family in the traditional ways. Each day the mail carrier brings another bill, another reminder of the life they’ve been forced to lead at the mercy of “progress.”

Wave of layoffs sweeps North American coal industry

By Clement Daily - World Socialist Website, August 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources—the second-largest US coal producer—announced last month that it intended to lay off approximately 1,100 coal miners and support staff at 11 affiliated coal mining operations in southern West Virginia by mid-October. These job cuts are only the most drastic in a wave of layoffs sweeping through the coal industry this year.

In a press release, Alpha President Paul Vining noted that in the last three years the company has idled about 35 million tons of coal production in an effort to cut costs. These moves underlay the closing of eight mines and a similar mass layoff of 1,200 coal miners in 2012. Moreover, these layoffs come on the heels of the company’s announcement in late June that it was permanently closing its Cherokee Mine in Dickenson County, Virginia, cutting about 120 jobs.

Similarly, Coal River Mining announced last week it planned to eliminate 280 mining positions at its operations in Kanawha, Boone and Lincoln counties in West Virginia. This comes on top of more than 150 layoffs by the company last year.

In July, Cumberland River Coal—a subsidiary of US mining giant Arch Coal—announced it was idling two mines at its complex on the Virginia-Kentucky border, eliminating 213 positions.

In June, St. Louis-based Patriot Coal confirmed it was laying off 75 of the nearly 850 workers to whom the company had issued layoff notices at its Corridor G and Wells mining complexes in Boone County, West Virginia. Back in May, after posting $116 million in first-quarter profits, CONSOL Energy cut production at its Buchanan Mine near Oakwood, Virginia, eliminating 188 jobs.

All these layoffs and production cuts occur in Appalachia, where the coal industry remains in a protracted structural decline driven by thinning seams and higher production costs. According to statistics compiled by Sean O’Leary of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, Central Appalachian productivity stood at just 2 short tons per labor hour in 2012, compared to more than 4 short tons in the Illinois Basin and nearly 30 short tons in the Powder River Basin (Wyoming-Montana).

The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) forecasts that coal production in Central Appalachia—comprised mainly of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky—will decline to half its 2010 level by the end of the present decade.

However, the decline of Central Appalachian coal production takes place within a broader crisis facing the US coal industry. Thermal coal used in electricity generation faces increasing competition for domestic energy production as the list of aging coal-fired power plant retirements grows under the pressure of cheap and abundant natural gas. The EIA projects natural gas will surpass coal in its share of domestic energy production by 2035.

Common Resources PDF: What Did the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium Mean for the Workforce?

Joseph E Aldy - Common Resources, August 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On April 20, 2010, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon suffered a catastrophic blowout while drilling in a BP lease in the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect. This accident resulted in the largest oil spill in US history and an unprecedented spill response effort. Due to the ongoing spill and concerns about the safety of offshore oil drilling, the US Department of the Interior suspended offshore deep water oil and gas drilling operations on May 27, 2010, in what became known as the offshore drilling moratorium. The media portrayed the impacts of these events on local employment, with images of closed fisheries, idle rigs, as well as boats skimming oil and workers cleaning oiled beaches.

In a new RFF discussion paper, “The Labor Market Impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Moratorium,” I estimate and examine the net impact of the oil spill, the drilling moratorium, and spill response on employment and wages in the Gulf Coast.

Read the full article here.

This and other PDFs are featured on our links page.

Capital Blight: It's Past Time to Get Off the Coal Train.

By Steve Ongerth - April 24, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A recent debate took place on my personal Facebook page regarding the matter of jobs and the environment, and there is little doubt that it will not be the last.

As you may (or may not) be aware, I have been combing various environmental and labor news sources for stories about campaigns where class struggle and environmentalism have some degree of intersection (or conflict, though the latter is almost always manufactured vy the capitalist class). Most of these I have been posting on the new IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus Facebook Page, but since much of that happens while the only means of information transfer is a smart phone, so often, due to the limitations of smartphone apps, I have to engage in some klunky work-arounds, and sometimes that means that certain bits of information wind up on my personal page first, but I digress...

Last week, I happened upon a statement from a BLET engineer downplaying the dangers of coal dust drifting from coal trains passing through the southern part of the Seattle metropolitan area, and I immediately regarded this as the thoughts of a scissorbill and I said as much. That statement drew a response from another individual, a Facebook "friend" (a former Wobbly turned low-level ILWU leader, by the way), telling me that the coal dust issue was overstated, that the Sierra Club--who was leading the opposition to coal trains there--was hypocritical (due to the latter's having accepted donations from capitalist Natural Gas interests), and that I was insufficiently "solidaric" with my (business) union brothers and sisters. He informed me that the Sierra Club was only canvassing well-to-do neighborhoods in the area and completely ignoring those working class neighborhoods closest to the potential route, which--by the way--had far more immediate and far more serious environmental issues.

Since I am a transportation worker by trade (I'm a ferryboat deckhand, iu510 you know), I figured I might have fired before aiming, so I decided to dig a little further (pun not intended) and see just what was up.

I needn't have held my fire.

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