Coal Mining or Arby’s?

There’s a Washington Post article making the rounds on social media.  The shocking headline blares:

The Entire Coal Industry Employs Fewer People than Arby’s

People see that and think, Gosh, what’s all the fuss about then?

Obviously this is a dying industry that has already lost tens of thousands of jobs, which are not coming back because of market forces (fracking and OPEC oil dumps) and mechanization (strip mining).

As the article points out, even the head of the nation’s largest private coal company says Trump can’t bring these jobs back.  And anyway, that’s probably a good thing since coal is such a dirty energy source.

It’s all true, of course.  But that line of thinking, devoid of any larger context, overlooks an important point.

Once upon a time, miners fought and died to unionize, transforming themselves from debt peons paid in company scrip to middle class wages earners.

Meanwhile, most of today’s Arby’s workers are essentially modern wage peons.

The average coal worker earns between about $15-30/hour.

The average fast food worker makes a little over $8/hour.

So telling people to stop sweating the loss of coal jobs because there are other jobs out there really misses the point: Most of the other jobs available to former coal miners suck.

The Post article has a graph ranking the number of coal jobs compared to other industries.  This graph has the head slapping gall to brag about there being nearly twice as many workers in the car wash industry as there are in coal.

Well, ain’t that great.

Wal Mart, the nation’s largest employer, the article boasts, offers 28 times as many jobs as coal.

I mean, do I really have to point out that Wal Mart being America’s largest employer isn’t a good thing?  It’s a god awful thing.

Here, come take a look at what Wal Mart employees make, as if you couldn’t guess, assuming you don’t already know.

Almost none of them earn what the average coal miner makes.

Late in the article, the author grudgingly acknowledges that coal jobs “typically pay far more than do jobs in the retail and service industries.”  But that doesn’t matter, we’re quickly assured, because saving or bringing back coal jobs won’t lead to “a meaningful increase in the number of jobs available to U.S. workers.”

And anyway, we’re told, the only reason we fixate on coal jobs is because “There’s something mysterious and ennobling about the dangerous endeavor to extract valuable commodities from deep within the earth.”

Jesus H, talk about out of touch, patronizing bullshit.

You know what’s mysterious to too many Americans?  A job that pays a middle class wage.  Maybe that would enoble them.

And then right there at the bottom of the article is a picture of the author, coifed haircut, oxford shirt, bright smile, perfect skin.  Doesn’t look like he’d recognize a lump of coal if Santa left one in his stocking for being so obtuse.

I wonder.  How many people are employed by that other dying industry, newspapers?

I just looked it up.  The Newspaper Guild claims all of 25,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico combined.

You know.  About half as many as the U.S. coal industry.  Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not making some reactionary statement in support of coal.  Coal is an exceptionally dirty energy source.  Its days are numbered, and that’s a good thing for the environment.  And I’m certainly not cheering over the decline of newspaper jobs.  I’m simply making a statement about class, which this article overlooks.

Don’t insult the people who still work in coal or, worse yet, lost their jobs in coal, and all of their family and fellow community members, by telling them that the loss of their jobs is just an insignificant statistic.  Or that there are a bunch of jobs waiting for them at Arby’s.

The real story isn’t that losing a few thousand more coal jobs won’t affect the U.S. economy very much.  The real story is that a foul demagogue (Donald Trump) is lying to a segment of the American population that is desperately trying to hold onto their middle class jobs.  He’s serving up false dreams that their good paying jobs will return.  He’s manipulating them by pandering to their fears.

And if for some reason you want to bring Arby’s into it, here’s how you do it.

2 thoughts on “Coal Mining or Arby’s?

  1. The new regime is trying to open up Eurasia as the next petro-state frontier, financed by international money-laundering networks. They have successfully and cynically spread false consciousness to the US working class.

Let it Rip