A group of coal miners in Ohio feel they would have been fired if they did not attend an Aug. 14 event with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and contribute to his campaign -- and to make matters worse, they lost of day of pay for their trouble.
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 my 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."
"I realize that many people in this area and elsewhere would love to have my job or my benefits," one worker explained. "And our bosses do not hesitate in reminding us of this. However, I can not agree with these callers and my supervisors, who are saying that just because you have a good job, that you should have to work any day for free on almost no notice without your consent."
"We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience."
Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that the charges were untrue.
"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. We had a pre-registration list. And employees were asked to put their names on a pre-registration list because they could not get into the event unless they were pre-registered and had a name tag to enter the premises."
"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.
"By federal election law, we could not pay people to attend the event," Moore replied. "And we did not want anyone to come back and see where anyone had been paid for that day."
"I'm not saying pay then 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.
"We're talking about an event that was in the best interest of anyone that's related to the coal industry," Moore added. "I do not believe that missing an eight-hour day, when you put it into perspective, when you think about how critical -- critical this next election is, and how critical it is that we get someone in this office that supports coal -- to give up eight hours for a career, I just don't believe that there is anything negative about that."
At the time, conservative blogs and websites like The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit and Townhall trumpeted the fact that "hundreds of Ohio coal miners attended" the event. Even though the mine was closed on Aug. 14, soot-covered miners were staged behind the GOP hopeful as he spoke.
Earlier that month, Murray Energy Corporation and its founder, Robert Murray, had blamed President Barack Obama after they fired hundreds of workers and closed an operation near Brilliant, Ohio five years early.
Company leaders said that "regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees and followers [are] the entire reason" that operations were shutdown.
Robert Murray received national attention in 2009 after his Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah collapsed, leaving six miners trapped inside. Between 2005 and 2009, the Murray Energy Corp. Political Action Committee had given more than $150,000 to Republican candidates. Murray personally gave $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2004 and $10,000 in 2006. The Ohio Valley Coal PAC, a group affiliated with Murray Energy, gave $10,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign in 2000.
Listen to this audio from WWVA:
(h/t: The Plain Dealer)