Striking coal miners reach out for solidarity
Win support from PACE union at Chevron, call rally
BY JACK PARKER
FT. COLLINS, Colorado--On July 13, miners on strike against Pittsburg and Midway Coal Co. at mines in New Mexico and Wyoming decided to take their case directly to the 1,300 workers at the Chevron refinery in El Segundo, California. The coal company is owned by Chevron.
"We are very pleased with the response we received here this morning from our PACE brothers and sisters," said Lawrence Oliver, president of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 1332 at the McKinley mine near Gallup, New Mexico, who headed up the UMWA team to California. The Chevron plant is organized by the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical, and Energy Workers International Union.
"The leaflets we handed out explained all about our strikes. Once these workers read about our struggle, they pledged their full support," Oliver reported. "This means donations of money, food, clothing, and the promise to spread the word about our fight to the Chevron management. Most important, it means solidarity, and that is how we are going to win our fight."
The McKinley miners and those in Kemmerer, Wyoming, have been on strike against Pittsburg and Midway (P&M) since May. They are resisting demands by the company to institute 12-hour workdays and other concessions.
"The trip was definitely worth it," said John Wilson, a UMWA Local 1332 member who was one of the four miners who went to El Segundo. which is near Los Angeles. "We got a very good response."
"After we leafleted, the union organized a little meeting for us," Wilson added. The local agreed "to help us with funds and organize a food drive."
He reported that the miners "are planning to go next to San Francisco," where Chevron has another refinery in the town of Martinez. "We haven't set a date yet but we have talked with the union and we know the workers there are willing to help."
On another front, a delegation from UMWA Local 1332 recently went to the New Mexico State AFL-CIO convention, where the miners were warmly received.
UMWA international president Cecil Roberts praised the strikers' initiative, saying, "I applaud this group of UMWA members for having the courage to travel a long distance to let the Chevron brothers and sisters know about their struggle. I pledge the full support of the International Union to ensure that they will be able to continue taking the word of their strike to as many Chevron facilities as they can--for as long as they have to."
Meanwhile, P&M made a new contract offer on July 15 to members of UMWA Local 1307 in Kemmerer. According to Elbert Harmon, president of the local, there was very little difference between the company's first proposal and the new one.
"We decided to take it to the local membership for a vote to make it clear to P&M that we are united and are demanding a fair and decent contract," Harmon said.
On July 18 striking miners at Kemmerer voted 148-42 to reject the company's proposal.
"The company has not budged on the Memorandum of Understanding, which calls for the right of the company to set a seven-day, around-the-clock production schedule," Harmon noted. "The company offered very little in wages, pensions, or medical. These and the 12 hours are the same issues that led us to strike in the first place."
Harmon emphasized, "This vote should make it clear to P&M that the membership has spoken--we are together in solidarity."
Matt Krall, a miner for 27 years at Kemmerer, told the Militant, "I'm glad we voted this down. The main issues to us are pensions, 12-hour shifts, and wages. The company moved a little but not near enough to what we need. We have gotten a lot of support recently and we greatly appreciate all the solidarity. The bottom line is that we are all in this together."
UMWA locals 1307 and 1332 are building a July 26 march and rally in front of P&M's headquarters in Denver. (See box on front page)
To send donations and support, or for more information, contact the Kemmerer Miners Relief Fund, c/o UMWA Local 1307, P.O. Box 261, Diamondville, WY 83116-0261, or call (307) 877-1443.