Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets coal miners during a campaign rally at American Energy Corportation on August 14, 2012 in Beallsville, Ohio. (AP)
Neela Banerjee reports in the Los Angeles Times that a Mitt Romney campaign rally at an Ohio coal mine included miners and employees who may have been forced to attend and were docked a day's pay.
Employees of a major coal industry donor to Republican causes have raised complaints about their participation in an event earlier this month organized for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the crucial swing state of Ohio.
Several miners at Murray Energy's Century coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio, contacted a nearby morning talk radio host, David Blomquist, over the last two weeks to say that they were forced to attend an Aug. 14 rally for Romney at the mine. Murray closed the mine the day of the rally, saying it was necessary for security and safety, then docked miners the day's pay. Asked by WWVA radio's David Blomquist about the allegations on Monday's show, Murray chief operating officer Robert Moore said: "Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event."
Banjeree's report continues, pointing out that the mine is owned by Romney supporter Robert Murray:
The Century mine is owned by Robert Murray, an enthusiastic Romney supporter and major contributor to the Republican Party on his own and through Murray Energy, one of the largest private coal companies in the U.S. Murray and his wife have given Republican candidates a total of $471,185 since the 2008 election, including the maximum of $5,000 each to Romney this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Additionally, employees of Murray Energy and its subsidiaries contributed almost $1.5 million to Republicans over the same period.
The Cleveland Plain dealer reported Tuesday that miners lost a day's pay, whether they attended the rally or not, when the mine was shut down for the appearance. From Sabrina Eaton's report:
Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore . . . told Blomquist that managers "communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend." He said the company did not penalize no-shows. Because the company's mine had to be shut down for "safety and security" reasons during Romney's visit, Moore confirmed workers were not paid that day. He said miners also lose pay when weather or power outages shut down the mine, and noted that federal election law doesn't let companies pay workers to attend political events.
"My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone's political event," Blomquist told The Plain Dealer. "If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day's pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home."
Plain Dealer reporter Stephen Koff asked Murray, who is attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, about the report. His response:
"What you people are suggesting is that I pay somebody to attend a political function that they attended voluntarily. You don't pay somebody to attend a political function, and that is what you are advocating by making an issue out of this."
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Romney campaign says the decision to close the mine was Murray Energy's - Murray Energy had said the closure came after consultation with the Secret Service. The Dispatch also reported that Service Employees International Union District 1199 - which represents Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia - is pushing the U.S. Department of Labor Division of Wage and Hours to investigate whether federal law was broken.