Wow. A bunch of coal miners employed by Murray Energy were essentially booted off the job for a day, without pay, so their bosses could attend a Mitt Romney event. And many of them say their managers told them they’d be fired if they didn’t attend.
In phone calls and emails to WWVA radio host David Blomquist, employees at the Century Mine in Ohio said they feared retaliation if they did not attend the Romney event.
“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up [b]y non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”
Murray Energy’s CFO, Rob Moore, downplayed the mandatoriness, mainly by abusing the shit out of the English language.
“There were no workers that were forced to attend the event,” Moore said. “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.”
So not technically mandatory, then — it’s just that your managers told the employees that it was, um, mandatory. Okay.
“What about not getting paid for an eight-hour day?” Blomquist wondered. “If the mine was shut down for the visit, I understand, but wouldn’t it be fair — let’s use the word ‘fair’ — to still pay these individuals for that day? I mean, it wasn’t their fault they weren’t working.”
“Our management people wanted to attend the event and we could not have people underground during Romney’s visit,” Moore insisted.
“But why not still pay then their wage for that day?” Blomquist pressed…. “I’m not saying pay the[m] to attend the event, I’m saying, ‘Hey look, we have to close down the mine, if you want to attend this event, that’s fine, but you’re still going to get a day’s pay for the work that you would have done,’” Blomquist pointed out. “Why not do that?”
“As a private employer, it was our decision and we made the decision not to pay the people,” the Murray chief financial officer said.
Oh, yes — the old “It’s our legal right to do it, so DO NOT QUESTION OUR MORALLY REPUGNANT DECISION!!!” bit.
Except it’s not actually legal for managers to order employees to go somewhere and do something, especially during normal working hours, without paying them for it, under penalty of being fired. It’s not actually your decision “as a private employer.” It’s a violation of U.S. labor law:
Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs: Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.
That’s why Moore attempts, clumsily, to back off the idea that the miners were “forced” to attend the event. He’d be correct, if it weren’t for unnamed “managers” putting out the word that the rally was “mandatory,” that the company would technically be within its rights to send everyone home for the day. It’d still be a dick move, but I guess that’d be between them and their God.
But that is, by Moore’s own account of things as well as the accounts of the miners, not what happened.
(I’m also a little fuzzy on the legality of maintaining lists of employees who don’t donate or attend political events. At any rate, it’s pretty creepy.)