10:42 pm - 01/28/2013
Throughout the 2012 presidential election, Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray used his employees as a political tool to try to defeat President Obama. Murray allegedly forced miners to attend a pro-Romney rally without pay and to contribute to Republican candidates. He announced layoffs at mines in Ohio and Utah, claiming that Obama’s “war on coal” has cost jobs and hurt his business.
But months after blaming Obama for layoffs, Murray Energy is looking to hire back workers. Alec MacGillis reports this includes mines in Ohio and Utah, which had announced layoffs in the days following the election. At the time, Murray claimed the “drastic time” forced “survival mode layoffs”:
“It’s opened back up…they’re hiring people,” said Gary Parsons, a former superintendent at the mine who worked there for five years before being laid off with the announcement of the shutdown last summer. Parsons himself has not been called back, and is planning simply to retire early, but he said he had talked to several locals who were taking steps to get hired back on. He said he did not understand why, after the big headline-making closure last year, things were perking up at the mine. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “They said they was going to close the mine down.”
Another former Murray employee confirmed that operations were picking back up at Red Bird West. “They’ve called back some hourly folks. They’re definitely starting it back up.”
Company officials maintain the rehiring is part of a reclamation project that can go on for several years, but they may have up to 43 people working at the Ohio Red Bird West operation after originally laying off 56.
Either way, the result is far from Murray’s prediction that the election would precede layoffs throughout the coal industry. Generally, cheap natural gas is driving down demand for coal, not Murray’s favorite targets, environmental protections and taxes.