March for Women's Lives, Washington, D.C., April 25, 2004
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Utah miners score victory,
defeat ban on picket trailer
UMWA-organized workers push back
bosses attack on strike
Striking Co-Op miners in front of picket trailer March 22. From left, Natividad Flores, Bill Estrada, Juan Salazar, and Apolonio Acosta.
BY GUILLERMO ESQUIVEL
HUNTINGTON, UtahWe won with the support of the retired miners and the United Mine Workers of America, said Juan Salazar, in an April 18 interview here at the picket trailer of the striking Co-Op miners. We beat back the company in their attempt to take away our right to be in front of the mine.
Salazar, one of the miners on strike against CW Mining, was speaking about a significant victory the strikers had scored a few days earlier by maintaining their right to picket at the mines entrance with a camper trailer, a picket shack, and strike signs. The mine is owned by the Kingston family. The company put pressure on state agencies to revoke the permit for the picket trailer and circulated rumors among scabs that the picket line itself was about to come down, said several miners.
But the bosses got a surprise. The strikers fought back and defeated their plans, Salazar said. This will send a message to the company that we are serious and that we deserve respect, he added. They thought it would be easy to remove us from the mine entrance. They were wrong.
On April 13, a delegation of four strikers, five retired United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members and a spouse, and a UMWA representative met with officials of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In the end, they secured the reversal of a March 30 order to remove the trailer from the picket line on the side of State Route 31 near the entrance to the mine.
Prior to those meetings the strikers had been told by both state agencies to clear everything off the picket line, including their picket trailer, toilet facility, picket shack, and signs. UDOT spokesman Tom Hudachko claimed the trailer and a number of parked cars obstruct the view of passing motorists. The strikers countered that for six months they heard no complaints about their picket trailer, which they had used as shelter against the cold winds and snow during the winter months.
As a brief news item in the April 13 Salt Lake Tribune
put it, Hudachko said the state also recently heard from the Bureau of Land Management that the trailer is on BLM land andalthough it apparently took five months to bother the BLMthe trailer cant stay.
At the April 13 meeting, a UDOT official told the strikers and their supporters that it was no longer in the hands of his department to issue permits and that all previous ones had been given out in error, workers said. The same UDOT official had sent the UMWA a certified letter, which the union had received the previous day, stating, Since UDOT is responsible for compliance with the terms of the BLM Right of Way Grant, you are hereby ordered to remove all trailers, buildings, and other items which have been placed in the UDOT Right of Way.… You are hereby given 10 days to remove the installation and clean up the Right of Way.
The official insisted the picket trailer had to go by April 14. He also acknowledged that the UDOT had received more than 40 phone calls, including from out of state, in protest of him revoking the trailer permit.
The delegation of strikers and supporters met later that afternoon with a Bureau of Land Management representative. This official initially maintained the same position as the Department of Transportation, workers reported, saying that the agency does not allow use of land under their jurisdiction except for maintenance and operations of the highway.
The strikers explained the importance of their strike and how big a blow it would be to their struggle if the company could push through the revocation of the trailer permit and weaken their picket line. Finally, the BLM officer said she would issue a letter for casual use of the land for the strikers shack, signs, and toilet if they replaced the picket trailer with a smaller one. The strikers agreed.
On April 15, officials from both state agencies visited the picket line to inspect the grounds and said they found everything in order. Strikers reported that before leaving the BLM official told about a dozen strikers and their supporters that they can continue picketing as beforekeeping the larger trailer on the site until they replace it with a smaller camper. The agency promised to issue a letter to the strikers giving them permission to keep picketing on BLM land once the UMWA submits a written proposal.
The strikers celebrated this victory with supporters from nearby communities by organizing an April 18 cookout at the picket line.
While these events were unfolding, the strike and the struggle around the picket trailer received increased coverage in the local press. In addition to reports in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Sun Advocate, the main paper in Carbon County, published a front-page article titled, Strikers vow to continue Co-Op mine picket line. (See link below.)
Send financial donations and letters of support to: Co-Op Miners, c/o UMWA District 22, 525 East 100 South, Price, UT 84501. Earmark Checks to the Co-Op Miners Fund.
Strikers vow to keep Co-Op picket line
Utah ‘Sun Advocate’ covers miners’ strike