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Coal executive explains layoffs with prayer lamenting Romney loss

November 09, 2012|By Kim Geiger
  • Robert Murray, president and chief executive of Murray Energy Corp.
Robert Murray, president and chief executive of Murray Energy Corp. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

Citing what he perceives as an Obama administration “war on coal,” an Ohio coal mining executive and prominent Republican donor responded to the results of the presidential election by laying off more than 150 workers.

Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Co., the largest privately held coal company in America, blamed the layoffs on President Obama --  and, by extension, the voters who elected him -- in a memo to employees.

“The American people have made their choice,” Murray said in what he called a prayer that he delivered at a staff meeting at which he discussed the layoffs. The prayer was first made public by the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register. “We are a country in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom.... The takers outvoted the producers.”

Reduced demand for coal, slumps in coal prices and looming pollution regulations have converged to cause the destruction of the coal industry, Murray said.

“We must totally go into survival mode and generate all the cash that we can from whatever we still have left that can help us,” he wrote in a memo to his staff.

The layoffs occurred at three Murray Energy subsidiaries: Seven employees were let go at Kanawha Transportation Center, 54 were laid off at American Coal, and 102 were laid off at UtahAmerican Energy.

“Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us to build,” Murray said in the prayer, which he delivered to about 50 staff members in a private meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“Yes, Murray Energy Corp. has been forced to make some personnel layoffs,” the company said in a statement. “But far more will come."

Murray made headlines this year when employees at one of his mines charged that he had required them to attend a rally for Mitt Romney. Murray denied the charge.

Murray Energy and its subsidiaries employ 3,000 people across six states and produce 30 million tons of coal a year, according to the company website.

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kim.geiger@latimes.com

@kimgeiger

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