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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 44December 15, 2003


Save the dates! December 13-14 in New York City:
Red Saturday of volunteer work and Public Meeting:
‘The Bipartisan War Party, Working-Class Resistance,
and Building the Communist Movement.’

(front page)
Salt Lake rally boosts
striking Co-Op miners
Backers of union organizing struggle
picket Kingston business
Militant/Lisa Rottach
OMAHA, Nebraska-United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 members at Swift factory here take plant-gate collection for Utah miners November 26. Unionists had distributed flyer inside packing plant beforehand on coal miners' union organizing struggle. Solidarity with this labor battle is beginning to spread beyond Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Striking coal miners fighting to organize a union at the Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah, received a boost from a solidarity action held here November 29.

A group of strikers drove up from Huntington, about 140 miles southeast of here, to take part in the picket line. Joining them were students from the University of Utah, oil workers in the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), and other workers and representatives of the AFL-CIO.

The protest was called by the newly formed Co-Op Miners’ Solidarity Committee, which is sponsored by the Salt Lake chapter of Utah Jobs with Justice. Unionists and students had laid the groundwork for the solidarity committee in October and November.

The picket line was held in the suburb of Taylorsville outside Family Stores, a general merchandise store owned by the Kingstons, the Co-Op owners.

The labor battle broke out in public on September 22 when the miners walked out to protest unsafe working conditions and the suspension of a co-worker for union activity. The company, owned by the Kingston family, fired the 74 workers, who launched a fight to get their jobs back and to organize into the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Following the escalation of the struggle, collections of food and funds on campus and in the labor movement in Salt Lake City and closer to Huntington have proved vital in sustaining the miners in their fight—now in its third month.

With the assistance of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the miners—most of whom are immigrant workers from Mexico—are waging an unfair labor practice strike. They have instituted regular picketing of the Co-Op mine and reached out to other miners and beyond to win solidarity. Low wages—about one-third of industry levels—and appalling safety conditions are key issues in their fight to organize the mine.

During the November 29 picket line by 35 miners and their allies, many motorists driving through the busy intersection honked their horns in solidarity.

“What has been done to these miners is simply unjust and wrong,” said John Walters, a 19-year-old worker who is also a student at Salt Lake Community College. He was pleased to hear that other students from the campus had driven to Huntington to bring support to the miners’ picket line. He told the miners he was going to talk to a college teacher who would be interested in having the workers address his class.

“I did not know that store was owned by the Kingstons,” said Clarissa, who works at a nearby coffee house. “I will never go into that store again.”

At the protest the Utah miners gave interviews to several TV stations and newspapers. “We are fighting today because we think this abuse and the conditions that exist at the mine have to come to an end not just for us, but for those who come after we are gone,” said Jesús Salazar on Channel 5. The anchorwoman had asked him why he didn’t get another job with better pay.

As has frequently happened in the course of the fight, the record of the polygamous Kingston clan, a labor-hating capitalist family whose members have been convicted of anti-woman violence and sexual abuse, became an issue in the action.

Miners pointed to a dozen members of the Kingstons who arrived at the store after the picket line went up. “That truck with the Idaho license plate comes from their potato farm in Idaho,” said Salazar.

The store itself was staffed by two women and several very young children. One male family member stood outside the store to promote a prominent Christmas tree business in the parking lot of the strip mall where the store is located. The man, who refused to give his name to this reporter, objected to one miner’s characterization of the Kingston clan as an “evil empire,” as he passed out a flyer reading “Free photo with Santa.”

“I wonder how many wives this Santa Claus has,” said a miner. The man, obviously upset, said, “He has only one.”

Solidarity activities with the Co-Op miners are taking place in other parts of the country as well. On November 23, packinghouse workers at the Swift slaughterhouse in Omaha, Nebraska, organized a plant-gate collection to support the Utah miners. The unionists, members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271, reported that they had previously distributed an informational flyer on the miners’ strike inside the plant. During the Omaha plant-gate collection, which raised $216, the workers put up signs in English and Spanish reading “Solidarity UFCW Local 271” and “Let’s join the miners’ struggle because their fight could be our fight in the future.”

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