Mitt Romney greets coal miners
© Wendy Gittleson
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets coal miners during a campaign rally in Beallsville, Ohio, on Tuesday.
Republicans love the symbolism of coal miners. Coal miners represent big energy. They are real men, not afraid to work hard and get dirty for their living. When pressed to produce a jobs plan, Republicans are quick to point to coal workers. Coal workers make great GOP photo ops and Mitt Romney's handlers know that well enough to arrange exactly that. They contacted a friendly Ohio coal mine and asked them to send a few miners to a Romney rally. The problem? The coal miners weren't paid for the photo op and they felt they could lose their jobs if they didn't go.

From Raw Story:
"Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time," the employees told Blomquist. "Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events."

"I realize that many people in this area and elsewhere would love to have my job or my benefits," one worker explained. "And our bosses do not hesitate in reminding us of this. However, I can not agree with these callers and my supervisors, who are saying that just because you have a good job, that you should have to work any day for free on almost no notice without your consent."

"We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience."
A spokesman for the Century Coal Mine denied that the miners were coerced to attend, saying it was voluntary, but they did not deny that they weren't paid, saying it wasn't the mine's fault the men weren't working, that they couldn't pay the men because all the managers wanted to attend the rally and without management, the mine couldn't run.

Despite the fact that the miners didn't work on that day, they were covered in soot, making for the best possible photo op.

Is this sort of coercion legal? According to a recent ruling by the Federal Election Commission, yes. The commission has determined that a boss, whether corporate or union, has the right to force their employees to campaign and even contribute to political candidates, whether or not they plan on voting for them.