In Discussion of Mine Disaster Coverage, Only Imaginary Unions Allowed

Andrew Tyndall makes a good point about how the network newcasts covered the Upper Big Branch mining disaster (flagged by Liz Cox Barrettat CJR):

Not once, in all five days of coverage, did a single reporter mention the organization that has worked hardest over the decades to make sure that mining management does not cut safety corners and that miners can monitor their own working conditions with impunity. The union went unmentioned, as did the fact that the Upper Big Branch workforce went unorganized.

Rush Limbaugh, for his part, did mention the miners union–to bash the non-existent union at Massey (Think Progress, 4/13/10):

Where was the union? The union is generally holding these companies up demanding all kinds of safety. Why were these miners continuing to work in what apparently was an unsafe atmosphere?

Alerted to the fact that Massey was, in fact, famously anti-union, and had busted the union at the Upper Big Branch mine, Limbaugh tried to find a way to save himself (4/15/10):

So I checked the e-mail during the break and a bunch of people say: “Hey, Rush, there was no union at that mine. At that Massey mine there was no union. Blankenship kept the union out of there. You can’t blame the union for it.” The left are trying to blame the Massey disaster on its union-busting, in fact. But: “In 2009 the National Labor Relations Board agreed with a decision that Massey Energy rehire 85 coal miners who said they had been discriminated against because they were union members.” So there were union workers there, and so the United Mine Workers should have been overseeing their safety…. You people, it’s been 21 years. At some point you are going to learn: If you go up against me on a challenge of fact, you are going to be wrong. It’s just that simple.

Is it really that simple? Workers who belong to a union getting their jobs back at a non-union mine is not at all the same as workers having the protection of a union contract. But one of the remarkable things about Limbaugh is that even his most logically tenuous claims may be built on a foundation of make-believe. As UMWA president Cecil Roberts pointed out in the AFL-CIO blog (4/16/10):

Yesterday, Rush said on his program, “But in 2009, the [NLRB] agreed with the decision that Massey Energy rehire 85 coal miners who said they had been discriminated against because they were union members. So there were union workers there. So the United Mine Workers should have been overseeing their safety, the United Mine Workers of America.”

Wrong again, Rush. The decision you refer to was AT ANOTHER MINE! And Massey is appealing that decision, meaning the workers who were discriminated against at the Cannelton mine (in another county from the Upper Big Branch mine) have yet to reclaim their rightful jobs as the NLRB ordered.

Those are the facts. Who’s wrong now, Rush?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.