Early Tuesday morning, dozens of mineworkers from Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal Mine headed to New York City’s financial district. There, they protested outside the Wall Street firms that own controlling shares of their employer, including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm.
Here was a scene made for TV: Burly miners that so often formed the backdrop for former President Donald Trump’s environmental rollback announcements standing up to rapacious firms that populist Republicans have railed against. And yet the supposed right-wing populist media figures and politicians who claim to love coal and have trotted out former miners and guys in hard hats have been conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s media-friendly action.
It’s not just that Fox News neglected to cover the action—in three months, it’s failed even mention the ongoing strike that it’s a part of. More than 1,000 Warrior Met coal workers have been on strike since early April, first over unfair labor practices and then fighting for fair terms on a union contract. The story is a real scandal: After the mine’s previous ownership declared bankruptcy in 2015, Wall Street firms bought it up and substantially lowered workers’ pay and benefits. It’s a clear assault on coal miners’ jobs, and yet Fox News has ignored it completely.
When now-President Biden made campaign promises to shut down coal plants in an effort to address pollution and climate change, the network slammed him for threatening coal workers’ jobs. It did the same when he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. For that segment, Fox anchor Carley Shimkus spoke with a former coal miner who addressed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election about her comments on coal. Shimkus tossed a few softballs and then ended by noting “we can see that American flag behind you, we know that you’re a patriotic guy, and we’re so happy that you landed on your feet.” When Biden made out of touch remarks about how coal miners should learn to code, Fox and Friends’ Rachel Campos-Duffy called it Biden’s “‘deplorable’ moment,” referencing comments by Hillary Clinton in 2016 because the network can only relitigate past grievances. (The network also went after Clinton repeatedly for her insensitive comments that she’d “put a lot of coal miners out of business.”) And when Trump falsely promised he’d save coal, the network fawned over his promises.
At first blush, it might seem the Warrior Met strike would fit perfectly into Fox’s narrative, what with working class miners from a Republican state heading into the big liberal city of New York to confront the people who screwed them over. But now that coal miners actually need support, Fox News has given them nary a mention.
There’s a major difference between the climate plans Fox’s hosts have decried and this strike: The former threaten coal bosses. After all, though Warrior Met has left workers with worse health care and a lack of overtime pay, it’s awarded company executives with bonuses of up to $35,000.
That’s also why the channel never seems to report on how coal’s pollution harms miners—something clean energy policies and a just transition could stop—or how amid the pandemic, coal companies have been laying off workers in droves while protecting shareholders’ profits. It seems Fox News and Republican politicians themselves aren’t really all that concerned about coal miners whose livelihoods are under siege. It’s the bosses, not the workers, who it wants to protect.