Bob Murray is not the bad guy
I like Bob Murray. I respect him, too, even though in today’s politically correct climate, he has three strikes against him. He’s an old white male who runs a coal company and has supported Donald Trump.
Last week, his Murray Energy Corp. sought and received Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Among some — those who thought a big part of the story was to emphasize that Murray has donated somewhere around $1 million to Trump’s campaigns — that was seen as cause for rejoicing. Progressives got two scalps — a big Republican donor and a coal baron — at one time.
But the company isn’t dead. It is being reorganized as Murray NewCo. At least for now, there are no plans to lay off any of the 5,300-7,000 people who work for the firm. That alone ought to tell you something about Bob Murray.
Here are a few other things you should know about him:
* There wasn’t a silver spoon in his mouth when he was born in Bethesda. His father was a coal miner, paralyzed in an accident when Bob was 9. At an age when most teens are thinking about the prom, Bob was working in the mines to help support his family. He still bears the scars, literally.
* Bob has been married to his wife, Brenda, for more than 50 years. She’s from Bethesda, too.
* He’s very religious and makes no bones about that — which may be a fourth strike in today’s culture.
* Murray has helped any number of community projects, usually without the public ever knowing.
* Not until 1988 did Bob become a “coal baron.” He did so by mortgaging everything he owned to buy the Powhatan No. 6 mine.
* In 2013, when there was talk of Consol closing mines in our area, Murray bought them. That safeguarded hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs for area residents. Remember, that occurred as former President Barack Obama’s war on coal was in full swing.
* Murray has been criticized severely for the 2007 tragedy at his Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. Nine men died there. Three of them were rescuers who went into the mine after the initial collapse. At one point, understanding the danger fully, Murray donned a hard hat and went in with one of the rescue crews. That says something about him.
* As far as Murray’s support for Trump, consider what Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, promised: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
* Let’s talk about the United Mine Workers of American pension fund, on which about 82,000 retired miners and their families rely. Because so many mining companies filed for bankruptcy and/or shut down, contributions to the fund were slashed to the point it was expected to become insolvent in 2020.
If Murray’s bankruptcy results in that company suspending pension fund payments, insolvency could occur next year. What does that tell you?
Simply this: Because some of Bob Murray’s competitors got out from under pension payments, they were able to make more money than he did. His attitude of toughing it out until last week hurt him — but helped the retired miners. It’s that simple.
Is Bob Murray perfect? Of course not. But he’s not the devil in disguise some would have you believe, either.
Mike Myer can be reached at email@example.com.