Bob Murray Fought Mine Regs And Black Lung Benefits For Workers *THIS YEAR*, Wants Black Lung Benefits Now

Class War

Bob Murray has spent his career fighting against mine safety regulations.

For decades, he has railed against black lung benefits.

And now, he is trying to claim the same benefits he has always opposed.

If you are unfamiliar with Bob Murray, may I recommend this John Oliver segment Bob sued over?

Coal: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

You can't sue someone for telling you to eat shit, Bob!

This follow-up is also lovely.

SLAPP Suits: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

So, as you can see, Bob Murray is basically a caricature of a villain. And now, in a twist of fate worthy of this godforsaken year, he wants to receive the same benefits he has always tried to avoid paying to his workers.

In a claim filed with the Department of Labor, a copy of which was obtained by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Ohio Valley Resource, Bob manages to verbally fellate himself while asking for money.

"I founded the company and created 8,000 jobs there until the move to end coal use. I am still chairman of the board," he wrote on a Labor Department form that initiated his claim obtained by the Ohio Valley ReSource. "We're in bankruptcy, and due to my health could not handle the president and CEO job any longer."

Throughout the nearly 40 years Bob ran two coal companies, he disputed untold but indisputably massive numbers of black lung claims. He famously sued the Obama administration an insane number of times to challenge its mine safety rules. In one of those lawsuits, he sought to stop the Obama MSHA rule on coal dust, the thing that causes black lung. He even suggested that Trump (who, of course, he loves) should charge Obama with a crime for killing ... wait for it ... the coal industry.

When Murray Energy declared bankruptcy last year, it still owed $155 million to the federal government's black lung trust fund, which provides a stipend and health care for miners who have been disabled by the disease. According to the Government Accountability Office, Murray Energy paid just $1.1 million of the $155 million it owed. The trust is already expected to be $15 billion in debt by 2050.

This is the same trust fund Bob the billionaire now wants to pilfer. (And that is, of course, in addition to fucking over his employees and former employees by declaring bankruptcy while owing more than $8 billion to their pension and benefit plans.)

Ever after Murray Energy declared bankruptcy and wriggled its way out of billions of dollars in debt and obligations, it somehow continued to have more than enough money to keep fighting against having to pay its fair share, spending $100,000 lobbying against black lung benefits in the first quarter of 2020, alone.

Now, Bob wants to collect from that same fund he has always tried to destroy.

Bob Murray, being Bob Murray, lashed out at the reporters who broke the story and threatened to sue if they published true facts.

Reached by phone, Murray declined an on-the-record interview for this story. Murray said he has black lung from working in underground mines and is entitled to benefits. Additionally, he disputed that he ever fought against regulations to quell the disease or fought miners from receiving benefits.

Murray also threatened to file a lawsuit if a story was published that indicated he had fought federal regulations and benefits.

But Murray told NPR in October 2019 that he had a lung disease that was not caused by working underground in mines.

Can someone let me know if Bob follows through on suing WVPB? I have a feeling I'm going to have some thoughts about it. tyia.

Now, listen. Black lung is an absolutely horrific disease that no one should have to suffer through. I talked to my friend Lucas White, who litigated black lung cases at Washington & Lee's Black Lung Clinic, and he told me more about it.

"Black lung" is a collection of pulmonary diseases caused by extended breathing of coal dust. It is chronic, permanent, fatal, and if nothing else kills the miner in the meantime, it is terminal. The condition never improves or goes away; it only ever gets worse. The only cure for black lung is to replace a whole lung entirely with a transplant. It is a slow, painful, and cruel disease that literally suffocates the miner over the course of years. The miner's affliction is rivaled only by the family's, who watch the whole thing happen.

Luke also pointed out what complete and utter poppycock Bob's claim is, given his history.

Bob Murray has suffered from lung ailments for some time, and he told one media outlet that it wasn't caused by coal dust at all, but was rather "idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis"—a go-to alternative "diagnosis" of sorts clung to by coal companies, their lawyers, and their "experts" in contesting black lung benefits claims. But what does "idiopathic" mean in the first place? Well, it means that the underlying cause is unknown or spontaneous, and that all other potential causes—coal dust, smoking, cancer, etc.—have been excluded. It is, in other words, a "none of the above" explanation. "I don't know what it is, but it sure ain't coal" is more or less the tenor. It's an especially disingenuous argument for a coal company or their lawyers and doctors to use when the miner has been sucking down coal dust at the face of a mine for thirty years and coughs up black sputum. Yet, coal companies use the lame "idiopathic" argument all the time. It is, in simple terms, complete horseshit.

So it's bitingly hypocritical for Bob Murray to change his tune now in order to claim the black lung benefits that coal companies have fought so hard to keep out of reach of people who truly need them—the same people who got the disease so that Bob Murray and others like him could get rich. He may now face the same procedural hell that thousands of other miners have had to face at the hands of coal companies. He may even face the "idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis" canard that he once embraced. Normally, I might be of the opinion that his hypocrisy ought to land him in a hot, hot place in hell, but he may already face it on this side of the grave. Despite that, I wish him a better go of it than other miners have gotten—and better luck than he deserves. He can still go eat shit, though.

So ... yeah.

I wouldn't wish black lung on anyone, even my buddy Bob, here. It is only his hypocrisy and utter lack of empathy that make this worthy of our disdain. (Don't know who else that could apply to this morning.)

Because fuck him, how dare he.

[West Virginia Public Broadcasting / Ohio Valley Resource]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.

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