No More, 'It's Coal Or Go.'

by
Abby Zimet

For at least the third time, a federal judge has reinstated longtime Kentucky miner, activist and whistleblower Charles Scott Howard, 52, more than a year after he lost his job at Cumberland River Coal Co. after filing grievances over safety issues. Having long fought Cumberland and its parent company Arch Coal - which was once so eager to get rid of Howard they paid him overtime to stay away - it was obvious that management "worked diligently to end Howard's employment," the judge ruled. She ordered the company reinstate him, pay a $30,000 fine for discriminating against a whistleblower, and post a notice of the ruling "explaining that the company has been found to have discriminated against an employee, that such discrimination will be remedied and that it will not occur in the future." Howard's whistleblowing, which has  inspired a song based on a Woody Guthrie tune, "lays bare Big Coal's tiresome mantra that safety is its top priority.... At Arch, 'safety first' is just a meaningless slogan," said his lawyer.

"I'll stand up for my rights, but I'm not gonna hate nobody," said Howard. "These coal operators and coal owners, for over a hundred years now, they've tried to put this DNA into the miners -'Hey, it’s coal or go. It's coal or you don’t survive.' It's like they're God."

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