Danger pay? Thoughts on coal mining.

During the recent mining fiasco, I heard that a coal miner in West Virginia can take home $75,000. While it may not seem like huge money for a place like San Francisco or New York, the average median income for a FAMILY is only $40,827. Furthermore, 315,000 people (or almost 18% of the population) live below poverty level.

When you take into account that a financial advisor (quasi-stock broker) in West Virginia only makes $47,340 and a bank teller makes $18,760, you can start to see that $75,000 is a lot of money relative to the rest of the population.

This got me thinking. Why do coal miners make so much money? Obviously, this is a dangerous job. Deadly mining accidents are not uncommon, and miners also experience a wide variety of illness and injury from the work environment.

However, it doesn't seem like as a society we particularily reward jobs based on danger. For example, a Roofer in Phoenix, AZ doesn't make an exorbitant wage. Marines, even with combat pay, hardly make serious money considering the risk they go through daily. Police Officers, even in the tough parts of South Central Los Angeles, where gang activity is rampant, start at $51,114.

It seems to me that coal miners make what they do based on the urgent need for energy, and their ability to strike bringing the economy grinding to a halt. If they were not unionized, I strongly suspect they would make far less.