Coal miners forced to attend Romney event

… and miss a day’s work.

… and docked pay for the time they missed from work, whether they went or not.

Not much about contemporary American politics makes me really angry, but this pushes all my buttons.

The response from the CFO is priceless:

There were no workers that were forced to attend the event. We had managers that communicated to our work force that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event.

Could someone please PhotoShop some manacles on to the wrists of those miners?

In the meantime, is there no journalist who will ask Romney how he feels about having people forced  by their employers to listen to him?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

19 thoughts on “Coal miners forced to attend Romney event”

  1. This is Corey Robin’s paradigm case of conservatism consisting of the outsourcing of tyranny from the government to the private sector. As long as it is not the federal government doing it, private employers are free to curtail the liberties of their employees as much as they want to.

    This happened on August 14 and has not become a national story? It seems that no, there is no journalist who will ask Romney about this.

  2. having people forced by their employers to listen to him?

    Mandated respectful attendance at workplace visits by major politicians and especially major officeholders is not unprecedented (read: I’m pretty sure Obama has had audiences of this sort in his factory visits, as have all his predecessors). It’s the docking of pay that’s extraordinary.

    1. I suspect many of them would have been quite happy to support Romney; given the extensive lying by the coal industry, quite possibly essentially all of them. But they’re not rich folks, and they were losing a day’s pay. That had to affect their enthusiasm.

  3. The body language of the miners is so interesting, they way they are all standing in strict lines with the same exact posture. It’s what you’d expect to see if they were military. I have a vague memory of an image of Obama giving a talk in a factory and everyone was just standing around.

    If this makes any of them rethink their allegiance to the Republicans, well a day’s pay is pretty cheap tuition. We can only hope.

  4. Putting the “slave” in “wage-slavery”–oh wait…no wages…must just be “slavery” then, even if it’s temporary…

    Since “mandatory” equals “forced” and everyone knows you can be fired for insubordination, there should be a class action suit brought on behalf of all of them, for back wages. In fact, a lawsuit should not even be necessary because once the NLRB knows this transpired they should take action. No employer ever has the right to order an employee to work on their behalf without pay. Multiple damages should be sought, as well as compensatory paid time off.

    I was forced to attend political “information sessions” by my then-employer (a large public utility) but at least they paid me, and I did my best to not pay any attention. If they only knew how much resentment was directed toward them. Then there are the employers who demand attendance at “team-building” exercises of varying degrees of hellishness–it really is amazing the liberties employers think they can take with those whose labor they are purchasing–it’s as if employers think they OWN their employees, that they’ve paid for them in full, even when they pay less than the person’s cost of existing in a minimal sort of way. I’ve always thought that the machinery is treated better than the human “resources” (another Orwellian term to let employers pretend they are not dealing with actual “persons”): at least machinery is provided with the fuel and maintenance it needs over its lifetime.

    I hope the employer is penalized in some way for this gross abuse of those workers.

    1. I’m just guessing, but it’s probably not a unionized mine…so the NLRB has little to no authority. But the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor probably would…

      1. This is an interesting objection, and I am no expert on labor law, union or non-union. I do recall, though, filing a (successful) wage dispute with California’s labor relations board when my non-union employer with longstanding financial problems decided to cut my pay retroactively as a way to deal with their finances. It’s been many years since, though, and memory is imperfect, so I’ll concede the point while noting it does not substantively change my argument: the employees, by law, should be paid for their time.

    2. Biden’s “gonna put you back in chains” isn’t looking so outrageous now, is it?

      Personally I think someone could put together a very effective ad which starts with Biden’s words, presents the Republican outrage around them, and then asks “but was he wrong?” and cuts to a description of this miners’ story.

  5. I have a slightly different question: If the mine was closed for the day, how exactly did those miners get covered with coal dust and why are they wearing their work clothes instead of their Sunday best? Did the phony man of the people send these poor workers to be made up and costumed for this phoney photo? Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. The easiest way to get a bunch of worked-out-looking miners in a photo like that is simply to tell everyone coming up from the end of their shift that there’s no time for them to change.

      Ignoring the wage theft for the moment (and odd how that’s almost always a civil matter while embezzlement is a criminal one), does anyone know the campaign-finance law implications of this kind of thing? Obviously it’s business judgement whether to shut the plant down for a campaign appearance, but donating the services of several hundred hourly workers for two shifts (possibly with overtime) would be unlawful for a corporation, and would probably exceed the contribution limits for all of the individual managers. (Even if it were the workers making a contribution, it would be large enough to be reportable.)

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