Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Could You Imagine?

Imagine a nation where a business owner apologizes to his employees for harming them?
Contrast that with the ham-handed way Massey Energy handled the West Virginia mine collapse in April of this year. Or the International Coal Groups' handling of 2006's Sago Mine Disaster. Or Murray Energy, the Crandall Mine collapse in 2007. And those are just in the past five years.
I understand the United States is a litigious society, and that business owners are prudent to protect their defenses in a lawsuit: "admit nothing, deflect everything" is  standard operating procedures taught in business schools across the country (also rendered as "never complain, never explain".)
But you'll note something in the statement the Chilean mine owner made before a federal investigation by that nation:
"The pain caused by this unwanted, unforeseen situation warrants we ask they forgive us for the anxiety they have suffered these days. It has been a terrible situation and we hope it ends very soon."
No admission of guilt is easily extracted there, yet the human factor, that 33 employees who provide a valuable service which enriches his pockets, is acknowledged.
It means something. American business owners would ruffle their feathers and pick at the downy bits underneath and explain how an apology is unnecessary at this time, that we should focus on getting the miners out, and they knew what they were getting themselves into anyway.
In West Virginia, it's true, coal miner is a legacy industry. It still requires men to risk their lives each and every day, and to take a little slice off their lifespans inhaling toxins you wouldn't subject a machine to. They know the risks. They also know no other industry there. The coal mines have seen to that, basically enslaving the entire state and region with the jobs that tether them to one company for life.
Why else do you suppose the people of that region have allowed themselves to be subjected to all kinds of environmental and workplace insults, from mountaintopping to mine collapses? They really have no choice, except to move out of the area to look for similar-paying work, not easy when you have little to no education.
Why else would they allow themselves to be so abused by such graceless men?
It's like having a Wal-Mart in your area: they can throw their weight around because, really, where else are you going to shop once the local pharmacy and supermarket and hardware, housewares and clothing stores have closed? Yes, maybe they'll act like responsible community members, but only when that spirit and the spirit of profitabilty coincide.