Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Several constraints play a role in rationale choice decisions of individuals. One constraint is the scarcity of resources. Level of possession of resources and access level to resources for each individual is considering in a rationale choice decision (Zey.1997 cited Marx 1867;1977 and Parsons and Shils, 1951). For coal miners, low access and low possession of scarcity sources such as cash probably plays a factor in deciding whether to take or stay in the coal mining. Cash is needed to pay some essential items such as rent, bills, food, and clothes to name a few. The next constraint to take in consideration is opportunity costs which ” are those costs associated with forgoing the next most attractive course of action” (Zey,1997 cited Friedman and Hetcher, 1988).
As more coal jobs are continue to be loss, efforts have been made to offer affected coal miners retraining courses that can help them find jobs in other sectors. However, before deciding whether to attend retraining courses, coal miners look at opportunity costs such as the odds of securing job placement after completing retraining, and covering living costs with a part time job or no job at all. Research has shown that regardless how reluctant coal miners are in taking retraining courses, companies consider the level of training of the local workforce when deciding to open a distribution or manufacturing plant ((Volcovici,2017). Companies will be less reluctant to open shop in coal mining states, if coal miners continue to refuse retraining.
For example, research pointed out that southern Pennsylvania that has a participation rate under twenty percent in training programs and southern Virginia that has a participation rate of 50 percent in training programs (Volcovici,2017). Coal miners are not willing to take opportunity costs if jobs are not available in the areas they live. Volcovici pointed out that existing jobs in natural gas in the state of Pennsylvania are not being preferred by ex-coal miners because work in the natural gas pipelines will require travel versus coal mines being closer to their homes(Volcovici,2017). However, coal miners failed to realize that most Americans have to commute to work. Research shows that the average American in 2015 had an average commute daily time from and to work of 26.4 minutes (Ingraham,2017). In addition, commute time from 2014 to 2015 increased as followed: “45 minute daily work commute increased by 3.5 percent, an hour long daily work commute increased by 5.1 percent and extreme commutes of 90 minutes or longer increased by 8 percent” (Ingraham,2017).
The next constraint to consider in rational choice decisions is Institutional Norms which ” affect both rewards and costs, providing support for and constraints against individual actors through such mechanisms as family norms, policies of schools and other formal organizations, government laws, and church commandments” (Zey,1997). Currently there is no guarantee that coal mine owners/operators will paid black lung disease benefits of the coal miners because there is no policy in place that makes them 100 percent liable since they can avoid liability by declaring bankruptcy. Berkes pointed out that in 2017 alone, coal companies only paid 25 percent of black lung disease benefits due to coal companies resorting to bankruptcies and/or not buying enough insurance to cover sick coal miners black lung disease benefits (Berkes,2018). Black Lung Trust Fund which only kicks in when coal companies cannot paid sick coal miners black lung disease benefits covered 64 percent of the benefits paid in 2017 (Berkes,2018).
The black lung disease policies in place design to protect coal miners is not bulletproof. The Center for Public Integrity found that a rise in black lung disease was due to exploit loopholes or cheating allow by the federal government system in monitoring miners’ exposure to coal dust that causes black lung disease (Hamby,2012). Research found that “from 2000 to 2011, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, received more than 53,000 valid samples showing an underground miner had been exposed to more dust than was allowed, yet the agency issued just under 2,400 violations” (Hambly,2012). The low number of violations is probably due that policies in place allow coal operators to averaged dust samples (Hambly,2012). Instead of reprimanding coal mine owners/operators for their cheating actions, MSHA allow coal mining companies in 57 percent of cases between 2000 to 2011 extra time to fix dust problems (Hambly,2012). Yet, one rationally wonder if black lung disease was merciful to coal miners the same way MSHA was with coal mining companies’ violators by granting coal miners extra time before manifesting in their body systems?.
The last constraint to consider in rational choice decision is information (Zey,1997). Information is needed to ” make purposive choices among the alternative courses of action” (Rey,1997). There is a ” growing recognition that lack of information quantity is not problem but quality of information is highly variable” (Rey,1997). Access to information regarding coal mine owners/operators cheating black lung disease policies is a challenge to the MHSA. Cheating samples can be stop by coal miners but they participate in the coal operators cheating scheme because they are either do not want to get their coal mine in trouble or they are pressure by managers to go along with it by reminding them that their jobs depends on it (Jamieson,2017). The reality is that coal miners might not being seem to care to breathe unsafety dust levels since coal mining jobs in some counties such as Muhlenberhg county in Kentucky offered salaries above the median household income of the county in 2012(Jamieson,2017).
Salary a major form of economy that is crucial for coal miners. Coleman expressed interest in the idea that we need a ” more precise conceptualization of the rational actor derived from economics, one that vires the actor as choosing those actions that maximize utility or satisfy needs and wants ” (Rey,1997 cited Coleman,1990). Economics plays a factor in coal mining operators’ rational decision to follow or disregard black lung disease policies. Coal mining operators are pressured to generate profits while they face decrease in demand and drop in coal prices ( Nasdaq,2018). Coal mining operators’ also have to find creative ways to compete with natural gas companies whom are taking and threat to continue to take energy market share away from the coal industry/(Nasqad,2018). Some creative ways that coal mining companies are using to remain relevant in the energy industry are as follow: “cutting production, idling coal mines, lowering expenses, selling off coal mines and producing coal from low-cost mines” (Nasdaq,2018). In the other hand, coal miners also relied on economics when deciding whether to take a coal mining job or continue working in the coal mining industry in order to cover needs such as food and rent to name a few. Trading Economics showed that between 1914-2018, the US experienced an average food inflation of 3.41 percent (Trading Economics, 2018). In August 2018, an increase of cost of food by 1.4 percent was experienced compare to August 2017 food costs (Trading Economics, 2018).

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