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Wilbur Ross made his fortune restructuring struggling industrial operations like steel mills and coal mines, but his methods have been slammed for costing workers their jobs—and, in one notorious case in West Virginia, their lives. (Photo: Reuters)

Trump Expected to Name Anti-Worker Billionaire Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary

Ross 'might be the second-most complicated person in the administration to vet, behind the president-elect himself'

Nadia Prupis

And the swamp keeps filling.

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to appoint anti-worker billionaire Wilbur Ross to serve as his commerce secretary, giving more evidence that his vow to rid his cabinet of establishment figures and corporate interests was little more than lip service.

Ross, a 78-year-old New York billionaire and chair of a W.L. Ross & Co, a private equity firm known for buying up failed businesses, is referred to in some circles as "the king of bankruptcy." He made his fortune restructuring struggling industrial operations like steel mills and coal mines, but his methods have been slammed for costing workers their jobs—and, in one notorious case in West Virginia, their lives.

The Nation wrote earlier this month of a coal mine Ross acquired in the early 2000s through one of his companies, the International Coal Group (ICG):

One of ICG's acquisitions in West Virginia was the Sago Mine, about 100 miles east of Charleston. The mine, a non-union operation, racked up a slew of safety violations from federal inspectors—more than 208 in 2005 alone.... Though Ross claimed not to be part of operating management at Sago, he admitted later that he was aware of the violations, and waved them away.

[....] Then, early one January morning, methane ignited deep in the mine. The explosion instantly killed one worker and stranded a dozen others about two miles from the mouth of the mine, in a passageway filled with carbon monoxide. It was more than an hour before company managers called for help, and four hours until a rescue team arrived. Nearly two days later, when they finally reached the trapped miners, all but one had died. Ross and ICG set up a $2 million compensation fund for the families of the deceased—an amount, critics pointed out, that paled in comparison to Ross's immense personal wealth. (Trump contributed $25,000 to that fund.)

The appointment is also noteworthy in light of Trump's working class appeal during the election and his promises to revitalize the coal industry.

The Nation's Zoë Carpenter wrote: "On the campaign trail Trump described himself as the 'last shot' for coal miners. But his embrace of Ross is a reminder that the president-elect at best knows very little about their lives, and at worst simply doesn't give a damn."

The appointment comes just a day after Trump named Betsy DeVos, another billionaire and opponent of public schools, to be his education secretary. On Twitter, New York Times Washington deputy editor Jonathan Wesiman noted, "Between Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Trump, Steve Mnuchin, and maybe Mitt Romney, this is going to be quite the working class administration."

Norman Eisen, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow and former ethics adviser to President Barack Obama, told Politico that Ross "might be the second-most complicated person in the administration to vet, behind the president-elect himself."


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