Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not Working In The Coal Mine

Coal mining is hard and dangerous work, not that I speak from experience.  Most individuals only take notice of the dangers of coal mining when there is a mine collapse and it makes national headlines because miners are trapped underground.  As for coal mining being hard work, I don’t think I need to convince you of that.

Even though coal mining is hard and dangerous work, it did not make Business Insiders’ list of The 15 Most Dangerous Jobs In America in 2010.

Though coal mining is hard and dangerous work, it pays well.  Individuals can make up to $50K per year as a coal miner, right out of high school, and yet coal mines are having a difficult time hiring and retaining employees.

I work as an energy trader and recently took a customer down to Appalachia to visit some coal mines. On our visit to one of the mines, there was a large sign prominently displayed: Accepting Applications. Once the meeting and mine tour were finished we were in the mine manager’s office and I asked him, “How come you’re hiring? Did you just lose some workers?”

“Hell, no!” was the reply. “We are always looking for people.”

Not sure if you have had the chance to visit Appalachia, but there are large pockets of poverty here, especially when the overall unemployment throughout the country is close to 10 percent. Hard to imagine there would be any job openings. So I asked him again, “How come? Don’t you pay enough?”

He explained to me that a high school graduate can start working at the mine and make roughly $40K a year. After 90 days of training (or in the industry lingo, when a worker goes from being a “red hat” to a “black hat”) that pay jumps up to about $50K a year.

Now granted, this isn’t easy work. It’s a 50-hour work week (with overtime of course), which includes night shifts and weekends. But $50K for a high school graduate?

The manager went on to explain to me that, “If you know which end of a wrench to pick up” the company will be glad to train you to be an electrician, equipment operator, etc. in which case your salary will rise to $75–$100K a year.

I asked him, “Then how come you can’t get workers?”

His reply was telling. “All you have to do to get a mine job is come to work every day, work reasonably hard, and pee clean. We just can’t find people who can do this.” (bold by ed.)

It is indeed a sorry state of affairs when employers cannot find employees who can make it to work every day, work reasonably hard, and pee clean.

Quote taken from a letter to John Derbyshire and posted at The Corner under the heading College vs. Work.  Go and read who the Appalachia college grads are working for.

UPDATE:  For those interested in a coal mining job, John Derbyshire’s letter writer provides some leads.  Derbyshire posts them under The Corner Employment Agency.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/21 at 03:41 PM
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Studies in Major Accomplishments

U.S. loses $1.3 billion in exiting Chrysler

And just how does the Treasury Department interpret this news?

“...the Treasury called it a “major accomplishment.”

Via Drudge.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/21 at 03:31 PM
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Force Quotes Twofer

If you think you have a right to force me to pay for your health care, then why don’t you have a right to force me to pick your cotton?

Jeffrey Quick on Facebook as noted by Billy Beck.

To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; it is at most an act of prudence.  In what sense can it be a duty?

Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I, Chapter III, The Right of the Strongest

Posted by John Venlet on 07/21 at 07:05 AM
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