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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 7February 23, 2004


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February 28-29, New York City. Click here for details.

lead article
Day of Solidarity boosts striking Utah miners
Militant/Amy Euston
The drill team of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 from San Francisco led February 7 expanded picket line outside Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah.

HUNTINGTON, Utah—Coal miners from seven mines in the West and others, including unionists from as far away as the San Francisco Bay Area, came here February 7 for a “Day of Solidarity” with miners on strike against CW Mining. The day included an expanded picket line outside the struck mine and a labor solidarity rally at the junior high school gym.

The fighting spirit was palpable as 17 members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 stepped off the bus that arrived here at noon that day from Salt Lake City. The members of Local 10, based in San Francisco, were clad in black and yellow uniforms with “ILWU Drill Team” emblazoned on their jackets. They were greeted by the striking miners and their supporters, with individuals vying to shake hands with each person as they filed by.

Several cars accompanied the bus, bringing 75 union members and others here from Salt Lake. Backers of the coal miners’ strike also arrived in carloads from Craig, Colorado, and nearby towns in Utah, including East Carbon, Price, and Helper. United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) representatives came from Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, including several from the unionized Deer Creek mine just down the road from Co-Op.

Some 200 people took part in the afternoon rally, joining the mostly Mexican-born miners who have been fighting for their jobs, union representation by the UMWA, and dignity since September 22.

After warming up with coffee and Mexican hot chocolate, everyone got into their vehicles and drove 10 miles into the canyon to the entrance to CW Mining, also known as Co-Op. As the caravan arrived, people got out of their cars and joined Co-Op miners at the picket line. The bus parked in the middle of the road and its occupants stepped off. The Drill Team got in formation and marched shoulder-to-shoulder, chanting “I-L-W-U!” The Co-Op miners were clutching signs that read “UMWA” and “We want dignity and respect from the Kingstons,” referring to the company owners, and “We are tired of abuse,” both in Spanish. The miners began chanting in English and Spanish, “Miners united will never be defeated!” and “What time is it? Union time!” The longshore workers and striking miners went back and forth like this for a while, cheered on by their supporters.

Reporters from TV Channel 2 news from Salt Lake City were on the scene, as well as from Telemundo, the local daily Emery County Progress, and the University of Utah newspaper.

Several bosses came out of the mine and videotaped the crowd. The Co-Op miners got a camcorder from their picket trailer and videotaped the bosses.

At one point a coal truck coming from the mine was stopped dead in its tracks. As the bosses looked on, the Co-Op miners continued standing together, held their signs high, and chanted even louder.

After making their point so well that one of the bosses’ pickups had to head in reverse back up the hill, the crowd filed back into their vehicles and drove in an orderly procession to the school for a homemade Mexican meal.

Spouses of striking miners had made the dishes of rice, beans, turkey stew, tacos, salsa, and chips. Two local restaurants, Taco Time and El Salto, also donated food.

In the lunchroom, the air was filled with discussions among those who have been together since the beginning of this fight and those who are new to it. By the end of the meal, people who had just met each other were making pledges to stick with the fight until this strike is won.

The speakers program kicked off with Co-Op miner Domingo Olivas. Fellow miner and rally co-chair Ana Maria Sánchez introduced him as someone who “was away from us for a while, but is back with us now.” Olivas had to go to Colorado to work in a rock quarry early on in the strike to support his family. He has since returned to Utah and has become one of the leaders of the strike. He welcomed everyone who had “driven to the picket line of dignity,” and continued, “I thank you on behalf of all my brothers and sisters for the support you give us today, and for providing us with the solidarity to continue this fight.” Olivas worked underground at the Co-Op mine for six years.

“To be on strike is nothing easy,” Olivas said. “All of our families are very much affected by this. Our moral courage goes up and down. But the reason why we are carrying out this sacrifice is not only for ourselves, it is also for our children and families. No longer should any worker go through the years of exploitation that we have endured. Never! We say to the Kingstons, ‘Enough!’

“Each day that we spend at the picket line for six hours a day, we get bored, yes, but we fix our hearts and our eyes, full of determination to last one day longer than Co-Op! One day longer! One day longer than the polygamist Kingstons!”

The crowd shouted back “How long?”, “One day longer!” The miners have been on strike for nearly five months to protest unsafe working conditions and victimization of union supporters by the bosses, and to demand recognition of the UMWA as their bargaining agent.

“There are no guarantees,” Olivas continued. “But if you don’t fight, you don’t win. We as miners at Co-Op have endured decades of exploitation. Our time has come. We are future members of the UMWA. We will win!”

Lou Shelley, president of UMWA Local 1759 at the Deer Creek underground coal mine just a few miles down the road from Co-Op, addressed the crowd. “The struggle against management and the oppression they bring is nothing new to the UMWA,” he said. “When I started working in the coal mines in 1979 there were several union mines in the state. Right now we only have one active mine that has UMWA representation.”

Directing his remarks at the strikers, Shelley said, “The eyes of Utah are on you. The eyes of every coal mine that is nonunion are on you. Your struggle is being felt by every nonunion and every union mine in the United States. It’s time we sent a message to every coal mine in this state. The Co-Op miners have stood up for safety. These miners have shown they will not be treated as second-class citizens. Co-Op miners, you have scared every nonunion mine in this state. I want you to know that our local is behind you until the end.”

Trent Willis, representing ILWU Local 10, began by taking the union pin off his hat and presenting it to Mike Dalpiaz, one of the chairs of the rally and a member of the UMWA International Executive Board from District 22. Surrounded by members of the local’s drill team, Willis said, “Let this pin be a sign of brotherhood from now on. With acts of solidarity like we see here today we can defeat anything against labor.

“Local 10 is here to deliver a message to the Kingston family: Stop your union busting and negotiate now. The ILWU promises to be here the whole way. The Kingstons may ask why is the ILWU here—they won a contract battle in 2002. I’m here representing 10,500 longshoremen up and down the West coast. If the coal miners don’t have a contract, we don’t have a contract. We’ll continue to fight until you have a contract. We want a contract now.” He ended with “Solidarity forever! ˇSí se puede!” (Yes we can) and left the stage after leading the crowd in union chants.

Mike Dalpiaz said he had just returned from Washington, D.C., where a UMWA International Executive Board meeting was held. “I bring greetings from our president, Cecil Roberts,” Dalpiaz said. In Washington, he said, “We talked a lot about the Co-Op strike. We will continue providing support and staff until we win.”

George Neckel from Jobs with Justice in Salt Lake City said that this strike “is what Jobs with Justice is all about. Jobs with Justice has broadened the strike by bringing in allies—because we believe in solidarity. In this, we are not just fighting for Co-Op miners but for dignity for all people.” The group organized the bus load of supporters who came from Salt Lake City.

Introduced to the crowd were members and officers from two UMWA locals at underground mines—the Deer Creek mine and the Deserado mine in Rangely, Colorado; five UMWA retirees’ locals; and Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) and United Steel Workers of America locals from Salt Lake City.

Other speakers addressed the fight for on-the-job safety, one of the main issues in the Co-Op strike. Joe “Moose” Martinez from UMWA Local 6417 traveled to the gathering from Nevada. At 75, he is the youngest member in his local of 140 retired miners. Originally from the Price area, his father worked 50 years in the mines. “All of my uncles were killed in the mines,” he said. “I know what it is to have safety. You have nothing if you don’t have safety. Without a union you have nothing,” he told the gathering.

Martinez said he has spent the last 14 years organizing for the UMWA after an accident ended his years as an underground miner. “The last mine I organized was the Deserado mine in 1984,” he stated. “I am proud to see ILWU and everyone else giving you help. I know you’ll have pensioners backing you up. This is where we learn to fight.”

Susan Austin, pastoral administrator from the local San Rafael Catholic Church Mission, pledged ongoing support from the church, which has been paying the rent and utility bills of striking miners through its Charity Fund. “When the walkout happened, we realized we’d have a lot of families who would need support through autumn and probably winter,” Austin said. “We need to support the miners for one day longer than the Co-Op mine.” There were flyers available with the address of the Charity Fund. Austin explained that more funds are needed this month for rent payments and high winter utility bills.

Closing the rally, Dalpiaz said, “Immigrants belong here. Most of us in this room had grandfathers and great grandfathers who didn’t come from here. Neither the president nor anyone else can stop immigrants from coming here and forming a union. My union will soon be the Co-Op miners’ union.”

Hundreds of messages of support—including some faxed to the union hall the day of the rally—have been sent to the striking Co-Op miners. Dalpiaz announced there were messages received from the New York City Central Labor Council, the members of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Southern California who are on strike against Safeway and Albertsons, the UNITE regional board in Cleveland, Ohio, UMWA Local 1248 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and the National Union of Mineworkers in the United Kingdom.

The Co-Op miners have been invited to Boston by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, which is organizing a one-week tour for them beginning March 8.

Salt Lake supporters of the Co-Op miners are organizing a Valentine’s Day dance for 7:00 p.m. February 14 at the Jubilee Center to raise funds for the strike.
Related article:
Navajo coal miners walk out in New Mexico
Minnesota unionists back Utah miners

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