Now That SCOTUS Ruled Corporations Are People, Massey Should Be Charged With Manslaughter

by Ben Hoffman

At least 25 people died in the latest Massey mine disaster. Three others have died since 1998. Massey Energy Co. has a long record of citations for serious safety violations and have not addressed many of the problems. For mining companies, it’s often cheaper to just pay the fines and not make any changes, and that’s what appears to have been going on here. Some of the fines, they’ve just refused to pay.

Read more…

So now that corporations are people, and people are held responsible when they cause the deaths of others, Massey should be tried for manslaughter. Of course, just like corporations can’t talk and it’s the board members who were given the right to free speech with their money, the board members should also go to prison when they recklessly endanger the lives of the workers and it results in deaths.

Advertisements
Tags:

29 Comments to “Now That SCOTUS Ruled Corporations Are People, Massey Should Be Charged With Manslaughter”

  1. [So now that corporations are people…][…the board members should also go to prison when they recklessly endanger the lives of the workers and it results in deaths.]

    The SCOTUS decision has nothing to do with it. For such flagrant and repeated violations the entire management team should be investigated for criminal negligence regardless. Civil court should take care of the rest.

  2. … and I trust you’d be just as quick to send the government agents who let them slide to the gallows as well?

    • From what I read, the government agents did their job. The mines were cited for safety violations. I’m not sure they had the power to shut down the mines.

      As far as the SCOTUS decision, if corporations are people with rights, they should be tried as people. Otherwise, the SCOTUS ruling was erroneous.

      • They likely didn’t have the power to shut down a mine (too much political pressure, for one) but according to the government doc I read (http://www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/oa/2010/05-10-001-06-001.pdf) they largely weren’t adequately trained to inspect one, either.

        Numerous statements re: incompetence are throughout that report, yet let’s take a guess as to who in the cushy government job is going to a) lose their job, b) take a pay cut, or c) take any real blame on their part whatsoever? For one, they’re going to scream that they didn’t have enough money to do their job, yet I wonder if they’re also in the group of gov’t employees who are seriously overpaid?

        Personally, I believe corporations should have more accountability when it comes to the safety of their employees, but let’s not give the incompetent, overpaid fools responsible for ENFORCING safety a free pass here. If the government’s rules don’t have enough teeth, that’s only the fault of the government’s.

      • [Otherwise, the SCOTUS ruling was erroneous.]
        I think that’s a reach – they were given basically the same rights as any organization already had (unions & non-profits).

        You’re obviously still bitter about the ruling! Everyone’s so upset about what MIGHT happen. Have we seen any abuses on this actually happen yet?

      • You’re blaming the government for Massey’s non-compliance to the laws? They had been cited hundreds of times, had been found guilty in court, fined 100s of thousands of dollars… Plus they’ve bought influence in the courts.

        No, that’s crazy. These people have a long history of dangerous working conditions and should pay the price for causing the deaths of their employees.

      • [You’re obviously still bitter about the ruling! Everyone’s so upset about what MIGHT happen. Have we seen any abuses on this actually happen yet?]

        Well, gee… do you think maybe that’s because we haven’t had an election yet? Have you been drinking the right-wing Cool-Aid, Vern?

      • [You’re blaming the government for Massey’s non-compliance to the laws?]
        No, I’m blaming Massey for non-compliance, as I say that the management should be strung up for their ignorance and neglect.
        If the government’s laws or policies don’t have teeth, however, the government owns that. “Doing their job” goes beyond handing out citations.

      • [Well, gee… do you think maybe that’s because we haven’t had an election yet? Have you been drinking the right-wing Cool-Aid, Vern?]
        As opposed to Olbermann’s kool-aid on the left that this the SCOTUS decision is democratic Armageddon? Hardly. The operative word here is “yet” – we’ll see what actually happens come election time. I maintain my opinion that corporations will have no MORE influence on elections of the future than any union has had on elections of the past.

      • [I maintain my opinion that corporations will have no MORE influence on elections of the future than any union has had on elections of the past.]

        The laws prevented spending by unions, also. Now it’s just going to be a free-for-all.

        The laws were put on the books for good reasons; they limited corporate influence (somewhat) on elections. We don’t have to wait to see what happens. We KNOW what will happen.

      • Not even your crystal ball is that good, Ben! I still have a hard time believing corporations will throw their hat in the ring any more than they have been. Being that overtly political as a company has never been smart business, unless perhaps you’re a newspaper. I think they’ll (continue to) keep their political workings behind the scenes, for the most part.

        We’ll see. 🙂

      • [We’ll see.]

        Hopefully congress will do something before we can see what happens.

        If a corporation can kill people and not be charged with murder, it shouldn’t be granted the rights of free speech.

  3. Hey if the corporation is charged and convicted of manslaughter or murder, wonder what kind of cell the corporation will be put in.

    • That’s the silliness of it! There’s already a “death penalty” for corporations that is legislated in all States, it’s called “choking off their cash until they suffocate to death”. That is unless, of course, the government steps in to inject them with new life again. 🙂

    • [Hey if the corporation is charged and convicted of manslaughter or murder, wonder what kind of cell the corporation will be put in.]

      Maybe just build a wall around it. 🙂

  4. BH:[You’re blaming the government for Massey’s non-compliance to the laws?]

    V.R. Kaine: No, I’m blaming Massey for non-compliance, as I say that the management should be strung up for their ignorance and neglect.
    If the government’s laws or policies don’t have teeth, however, the government owns that. “Doing their job” goes beyond handing out citations.

    You cannot have it both ways Mr. Kaine, that is decrying Big Government and at the same time calling for stricter enforcement of safety regulations.

    Either the government needs the tools and the means to effectively regulate the industries or the rubber stamp that most regulatory agencies in the US are now will have to be accepted. The balance I perceive in the US currently is too far tipped in favour of industry, and consumers and workers are paying the price.

    I shiver when I hear talks of ‘harmonization of standards’ talks between the US and Canada (and sometimes Mexico). The lobby to loosen and water down regulations, in the name of profit of course, continues to take peoples lives, on both sides of the border. We are selling out the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, bit by bit as corporations lobby to diminish the agencies regulatory power, but at least it is still an effective body.

    The mine disaster is a tragedy, that on the current regulatory course will happen again and again as profit is put before people.

    • Arbourist,

      With respect, I believe you can. “Big Government” is far too broad a label to define the points within my argument. I’ll take a government department with less unnecessary and overpaid bodies, with a few TRAINED staff rather than a bunch of untrained staff, and with more regulatory clout any day. Within that, you CAN have it both ways – rules that are clearly defined and strictly enforced, and a company that operates within them.

      I do agree with what I think is your point here, that it’s not government (large or small) that’s making the rules here, it’s the company. In this case of so many repeated violations here it is obvious that someone was being influenced NOT to shut these guys down or slap them harder. Again, I believe that’s extremely wrong, but on this side of the debate we’re often too quick to blame corporations (once again) to extend their influence and not those on the government end who knowingly and willingly reach their hands out to accept it.

      Nonetheless, here’s a simple capitalist-type solution:
      1) The government states that any accident deemed a result of repeatedly neglected safety violations will result in a fine equivalent to 120% of their revenues.
      2) The government reports that all safety violations MUST be reported in a public company’s quarterly statements, and in both public and private companies, and that those will be posted on a government website (both the violations, and their resolution).

      If I know the potential for that size of lawsuit or fine exists, and I ALSO know that the company has been in repeated violation of major safety standards, then I’m stupid to invest. By using Massey as an example, other companies will fall in line or perish.

      • V.R. Kaine said: “Big Government” is far too broad a label to define the points within my argument.

        Granted. I do though think that line between regulating industry and ‘interfering’ with ‘just market practices’ is intentionally blurred and rallied against equally.

        I’ll take a government department with less unnecessary and overpaid bodies, with a few TRAINED staff rather than a bunch of untrained staff, and with more regulatory clout any day.

        Would not anyone like to have this situation? It is certainly possible but is it probable given the American political zeitgeist? Consider the hyperbolic furor over moving toward single payer health care; I speculate similar attitudes (and vested interests) exist when it comes the government regulating industry.

        Again, I believe that’s extremely wrong, but on this side of the debate we’re often too quick to blame corporations (once again) to extend their influence and not those on the government end who knowingly and willingly reach their hands out to accept it.

        It is easy to jump on the corporations, but they are mandated by law to make profit. So, if leaning on regulators enhances profit why not do it? It would be easier to make a case for Corporate responsibility if their charters were not based mostly on accountability to shareholders rather than stakeholders involved within the companies purview.

        Nonetheless, here’s a simple capitalist-type solution:
        1) The government states that any accident deemed a result of repeatedly neglected safety violations will result in a fine equivalent to 120% of their revenues.

        I would argue that this is implicitly not a capitalist solution. Rather, this solution is based on a more balanced view of what companies should be doing, something like what a Union might propose to keep the company responsible to more of the stakeholders involved in the situation.

    • [ The mine disaster is a tragedy, that on the current regulatory course will happen again and again as profit is put before people.]
      Better stated as “when profit is linked DIRECTLY to people’s safety”, and again, you CAN have it both ways here. If companies are going to be brought to their knees over an accident like this, then every government employee who was sent in to assess them unqualified should be canned as well.

      How many of those government safety inspectors said, “Oh well, this is all I can do” and focused more on keeping their cushy government jobs while they knew full-well lives were at stake in the meantime? How many of those people said, “Not my problem?” They, too, are putting profit (i.e. their wage) over people.

      • It’s a lose-lose situation for the miners. If the inspectors do nothing, the miners work in extra dangerous conditions. If they shut down the mines, the miners are out of work.

      • “Oh well, this is all I can do” and focused more on keeping their cushy government jobs while they knew full-well lives were at stake in the meantime? How many of those people said, “Not my problem?” They, too, are putting profit (i.e. their wage) over people.

        Now you are equating private individuals with corporate actions. The OP was this very idea. If corporations are individuals, then they need to have individual responsibility assigned to them. Limited liability guarantees this is not the case.

        On the same point, I think you conflate the situation of the individual government inspector with the idea of the corporate ideal of profit over people.

        The inspectors whether coerced or bribed would have to answer for their actions. The pressure to conform and toe the line, whatever it may have been, should be taken into account when judging the actions of these individuals. Corporations, generally, are responsible to their shareholders and how they are responsible is that they make them money.

        The point you put forth tries to equate two different entities with significantly different responsibilities and obligations and treat the individuals like they are as powerful (or have access to the same resources) as corporations which is an unfair argument.

      • Yes, and if the miners aren’t working, then Massey isn’t making any money. It’s amazing to me to see how such a simple thing (safety) can be so ignored from BOTH a human and monetary aspect.

  5. [We are selling out the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, bit by bit as corporations lobby to diminish the agencies regulatory power, but at least it is still an effective body.]
    I read a lot about that with the Maple Leaf issue a while back. Even as a capitalist, I don’t disagree with you here. Make the fines for an accident bigger and more severe than the cost to prevent them, and you’ll have your solution.

    “People before profit” is too unrealistic and idealistic in my opinion. Let’s start with a free press that would have picked up and stayed on the Massey safety violation story and kept it in the public eye until pressure from government, investors, and citizens became too great to ignore.

    Wait – perhaps I’m being unrealistic and idealistic in that sense as well. 🙂

  6. “People before profit” is too unrealistic and idealistic in my opinion. Make the fines for an accident bigger and more severe than the cost to prevent them, and you’ll have your solution much more quickly…

    … is what I meant to say. Hard to edit in such a small box!

    • They’ve been fined and just plain didn’t pay most of the fines. No, for flagrant violations, the owners should be held responsible.

    • “People before profit” is too unrealistic and idealistic in my opinion.

      If reality is the inverse, would it not make sense to start to move toward the idea of people before profit?

      That seems a bit chilling Vern. Is the grand scheme of society to be purely economically based? Is it that the best we have? History (recent and ancient) is replete with examples of one class grinding down another for its benefit.

      Pragmatically speaking, profit over people is how the system we have chosen works but is it necessarily the best way? I rally against the notion, it bears further examination at the very least. 🙂

      • Arbourist,

        Profits over people as the “best” way? For now, I think profits AND people is the only thing that seems to cover all the bases (individual AND social needs) together.

        However, as I’ve said before, I’m more than happy to see Star Trek replicators come online, eliminate the concept of economic scarcity, and start to move us all towards a more desired and way cooler future! (and I’m not even a Trekkie!)

      • [History (recent and ancient) is replete with examples of one class grinding down another for its benefit.]
        Both also have examples of many individuals who’ve realized they are not limited to any one class. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: