[Marxism] Utah miners, United Mine Workers strike forces rehiring of Utah miners

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jul 1 22:24:46 MDT 2004

This was a small strike that won wide support in the labor movement and
highlights the growing possibilities for union organizing in the western
mines and among immigrant and other workers.  It is a significant part
of the new beginnings of popular anti-imperialist resistance in the
world today, which include the antiwar and immigrant-rights protests,
the challenges to US occupation in Iraq, and the Venezuelan revolution. 
Fred Feldman

The Militant  July 20, 2004 (two-week issue)

Bosses are forced to rehire
striking Utah coal miners 
UMWA announces breakthrough in union-organizing battle

'On toward victory in union election in August,' Utah miners say

Co-Op miners describe advance at Colorado event on Ludlow massacre
HUNTINGTON, Utah-In a major breakthrough for the United Mine Workers of
America (UMWA) organizing battle at the Co-Op mine here, the union
received a draft settlement from the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) that orders C.W. Mining Co. to reinstate all of the 75 miners who
were illegally fired last September. With most of the Co-Op strikers
back to work before mid-July, the chances increase that the UMWA will
win the NLRB-mandated union election that will be held sometime in
August, workers report. 

On June 21, two bosses from the Co-Op mine hand delivered letters to the
striking miners giving them an unconditional offer to return to work.
The letter stated that workers must let the company know by July 6 if
they are returning to their jobs and that they must report to work no
later than July 12. 

"It's a victory: we won the right to go back to work," said striker
Domingo Olivas. "All the work we've done up to this point puts us in a
good position to win the UMWA inside the mine. We hope the miners who
are already working inside will be with us." 

"Rather than reporting separately, we will all march together to the
mine on July 6 and let the Co-Op bosses know we are coming back united,"
said Bill Estrada, one of the strike leaders. "We are inviting all
strike supporters to Huntington to march with us that day and celebrate.
Fifteen retired UMWA members were the first to tell us they will be
there. We look forward to doing everything possible to win the union
election in August." 

On Sept. 22, 2003, 75 coal miners were fired from their jobs at the
Co-Op mine, owned by C.W. Mining. They were fired because they had
contacted the UMWA about getting a union organized at the mine. The
miners were being paid between $5.15 and $7.00 an hour with no benefits.

A company union has existed at the mine for many years. Workers have
submitted evidence that the officers of this "union" are bosses and are
related to the Kingstons, the wealthy family that owns the mine. 

The strikers report that the settlement agreement from the NLRB clearly
states that any type of intimidation or harassment of pro-union miners
by the Co-Op management is illegal. The document states that the
agreement must be visibly posted at the mine for 60 days. 

This is important because this is what led to the wholesale firings last
September, workers say. Prior to that date, the miners had been talking
to UMWA organizers about how to get a real union organized at the mine.
Bosses began harassing and suspending the miners for this activity. They
had cornered miners alone underground and questioned them about "the
meetings they were having with the UMWA." 

The bosses also tried to disrupt a meeting the strikers had organized
outside the mine, and had threatened workers, most of whom are
immigrants from Mexico, with sending the immigration police after them.
When they learned of the company threats, the strikers changed the time
and location of that meeting. When the miners returned to Huntington
after their gathering, they say they saw the bosses standing in front of
the old location waiting for the meeting to begin. 

The settlement explicitly prohibits any of these practices, workers say.
It states that the employers must refrain even from watching the
workers, or from giving them the impression they are being watched,
while participating in union activities. 

On Sept. 23, 2003, the UMWA filed charges with the NLRB stating that all
75 miners were fired illegally for union activity. The national labor
board upheld the charge in its ruling. 

The NLRB made the decision nine months into the workers' strike, which
has continued to win broader support in the labor movement throughout
the country. 

The miners also reported that the draft settlement includes a back pay
order, the exact details of which are being negotiated and may be
settled in court. The settlement reportedly states that employees have
the right to pursue any legal claims they may have against the company
because of loss of wages or other benefits. 

Strikers said that as soon as they received the news, they began
contacting all the miners who were fired. Many of the miners had taken
jobs in other cities and are in the process of driving very long
distances back to Huntington by July 6. A striker who went to Idaho and
has been working in the potato fields for several months, for example,
informed the strike leadership committee he plans to be back. 

Other strikers have gotten jobs at other mines in the Utah area, and a
number have indicated they will return to Co-Op. 
The NLRB has set a hearing for July 20-22 in Price, Utah, to determine
who will be eligible to vote and the time and place of the union

After the strikers and their supporters march to the mine office on July
6, everyone plans to meet at the town hall in Huntington for food,
refreshments, and a celebration. 

For more information, contact the UMWA office in Price at (435) 637-2037
or (435) 650-2019. Solidarity messages to be read at the rally can be
faxed to the UMWA at (435) 637-9456. 

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