Branden's Story


What it's been like since the layoffs

It’s been busy. It’s picked back up some now, so it’s really busy. I kind of hold a different type of job out there. Coal Creek is a smaller mine so we kind of end up doing a lot of different things instead of one set thing. It got kinda shady there for a little bit with the layoffs and everything else. Everybody was worried.

Were you worried?

For Coal Creek, and specifically the maintenance department, I’m one of the more senior guys and I make myself pretty available so it was pretty unlikely that I was going to get laid off. But I mean, you never know. Coal Creek didn’t actually end up having any layoffs. We did ours through attrition, people who quit or got fired, we just didn’t rehire the position. Black Thunder, our sister mine, same company different mine, they had some layoffs there and actually a good friend of mine got laid off.

I heard about where a whole dang family got laid off. I haven’t heard of too many people losing everything just yet, but a lot of people just packed up and left. Nobody talks about it a whole lot. Everybody pretty much knows somebody who got laid off.

The community has been really supportive with everything. It’s brought out the best in people. You don’t see the really bad stuff, the crime rate didn’t go up as far as I know or anything like that. You see people reaching out to each other, helping out.

Is there help available, job retraining?

I can’t believe those guys can sleep at night. ‘You did a really good job running her into the ground, have ten million dollars.’

I don’t know, to be honest, but I’m fairly certain they exist. For the operators, you have to go that route. They could work construction I guess, but there’s really not too many jobs like a coal mine. Especially equipment-wise, you don’t really see too many draglines elsewhere or things like that. It’s specialized training.

I think there should be some safety nets for retraining people, but they need to focus on the people who need it. There’s a lot of people like me. I’m a mechanic, I can find my way. I already have a marketable skill and you can’t take that away. Mostly it’s just the operators who take it the hardest because there isn’t anywhere else that you’re going to find a haul truck. You got mines elsewhere, but outside of a mining type job, you’re not really going to find anything.

Have you heard the rumors of companies cutting retirement benefits while giving executives bonuses?

It’s complete crap. Alpha did $8 million in bonuses on a company that went bankrupt. I think Peabody did somewhere north of $12 million. I think that’s criminal. There’s no way that in my eyes that’s not criminal. Or at the very least, I can’t believe those guys can sleep at night. ‘You did a really good job running her into the ground, have ten million dollars.’

I mean, granted, they can rely on the whole ‘nobody saw it coming’ thing, but in truth, everybody did. I just can’t get past how wrong that is in my morals. I couldn’t take that kind of money for doing a terrible job. I mean, I'd get fired for doing a bad job.

I definitely think the retirement benefits should have been protected more. You’re making a promise to somebody when you hire them and tell them ‘This is your retirement; this is what we’re going to do.’ And now they’re reneging on that and getting bonuses for doing that. I can’t think of anything worse.

Does government have a responsibility to intervene?

Yes and no. You can’t mess with capitalism too much or it doesn’t work. You can’t limit the amount of money people will make or they’ll find somewhere else to go make money. So, in one boat, yes, I think the government should have kind of stepped in on that deal where, you know, you’re bankrupt so how can you justify millions of dollars in bonuses? But I see politicians doing that same stuff pretty much every day, so it shouldn’t shock me.

What do you think is the solution?

I think the coal companies should focus a little bit harder on retraining their laid-off employees.

I’m not against green energy or anything like that, but they need to quit pushing it. They need to let free-market capitalism take it’s own course. If it’s a viable money maker, that’s what they’re going to do. They keep strangle-holding coal and pushing the clean energy before it’s a viable money-maker and it’s murdering us. It’s really hard on everybody. Like I said, I’m not against green energy, it’s a good idea. Save the sinking ship. But the fact that they’re pushing it before it’s ready is what I have a problem with. Because it’s just not there yet.

There’s a lot of places in EU that are having full days, even weeks, running completely off renewable energy. And I think it’s a good thing. Like I said, it’s a technology that needs to be embraced because that’s where we’re going. You can’t mine coal forever.

But I think the coal companies should focus a little bit harder on retraining their laid-off employees.