The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 34           September 21, 2004  
 
 
Utah miners affirm support for UMWA representation
at meeting of boss ‘union’
(front page)
 
BY GUILLERMO ESQUIVEL
AND ANNE CARROLL
 
HUNTINGTON, Utah—Twenty miners at the Co-Op mine here reaffirmed their determination to be represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at a September 3 meeting of the company “union,” workers reported. This was the second meeting of the International Association of United Workers Union (IAUWU), the outfit run by the Co-Op bosses, that UMWA supporters at the mine have attended.

After a 10-month strike for UMWA representation that ended in July, the company has felt obliged to organize these monthly “union” meetings to keep up the fašade that the IAUWU is a labor organization, the miners said. Not one Co-Op miner remembers any such meetings being held prior to the strike.

“How long has your union existed?” Jes˙s Salazar, one of the leaders of the UMWA representation struggle, said he asked IAUWU local president Chris Grundvig. “For 30 years,” responded Grundvig.

“For those 30 years you have never represented us. How long before you represent us. Should we wait another 30 years?” asked Salazar, amid laughter from the other min ers. This was the fourth IAUWU meeting since the strike began Sept. 22, 2003. What transpired at this meeting solidified support for the UMWA among miners, including those who did not join the strike. One miner who had not joined the walkout, for example, had filed a complaint for pay discrimination. Grundvig had vowed to fight for this worker against the company. After Grundvig admitted he had done nothing for four months, the miner threw his arms in the air and told Grundvig, “Forget it. Just drop the whole thing.”

“How many locals are in your international union?” Alyson Kennedy, another miner, said she asked Ron Mattingly, the so-called international president of the IAUWU, who was present at the meeting. “We have one,” Mattingly responded. “Just here at this mine?” asked Kennedy. “Yes,” admitted Mattingly.

The other IAUWU officers present were Dana Jenkins and Warren Pratt, vice-president and treasurer of the local, respectively, and Nevin Pratt and Vicky Mattingly, the vice president and treasurer of the “international.” All six of these “officers” are relatives of the mine owners, the Kingstons, the miners pointed out.

The IAUWU had posted notices in English and Spanish for this meeting at the mine’s bathhouse. The agenda included a presentation on a new contract and questions regarding the UMWA. The miners said Chris Grundvig promised that under a new contract workers would receive six pairs of work gloves and two pairs of steel-toed rubber boots. “And this is immediately in effect,” Nevin Pratt reportedly said.

The Kingstons operate a company store at the scale house of the mine, where the bosses sell the miners gloves for $6.50 a pair, boots for $65, and hard hats for $26.

Most of the other mines in the area provide all of this equipment for free, and many provide free bib overalls.

Miner Bill Estrada said that when others demanded to know what the pay increases were in the “new contract,” Ron Mattingly responded he didn’t think the IAUWU could get higher pay per hour for the miners. Instead this “union” is talking to the company about increasing present bonuses and supplementary pay.

“What we want is pay per hour equitable to the other mines around here,” Estrada replied, while other miners at the meeting nodded in agreement. Wages for underground coal miners in the United States average at least $17 an hour. Estrada said he makes $5.75 per hour as an underground maintenance worker. The company uses existing bonuses and supplementary pay to discipline workers, Estrada noted. “For example, if workers report an accident, both are taken away,” he said.

Juan Salazar and other miners said they demanded that harassment of the women miners by the brother of the mine manager be ended. “We do not tolerate disrespecting women miners,” Salazar said. “This is something that has to stop.”

After several hours, when Grundvig tried to end the meeting, Kennedy said she asked, “What were you going to say under the agenda point on issues pertaining to the UMWA?”

“Why do you want the UMWA?” Grundvig responded. “They only have one UMWA-organized mine in the state.”

The miners said they laughed and replied that they are seeking UMWA representation because they want a real union. “Can you tell us of one UMWA-organized mine where workers make $5.50 an hour?” they asked. Grundvig admitted there was not one, said Kennedy, “and then Ron Mattingly stood up and exclaimed: ‘The UMWA wants to shut this mine down!’”

The miners reported that the mine bosses tried to prevent some miners from attending the meeting. The company union schedules the meetings on a work day.

Bill Estrada was scheduled to work day shift and told his boss he wanted to leave the mine to attend the meeting. His boss, maintenance foreman Cyril Jackson, said no.

“Warren Pratt, an officer of the bogus union, backed up the boss. After a 20-minute argument with Pratt, he finally said he would talk to Jackson,” Estrada reported. “Pratt came back and said Jackson said okay, I could go to the meeting.”

Other miners reported that the company also threatened to take away their holiday pay if they missed work to attend the meeting. But after so many miners showed up for the meeting, the company backed down on this, too.

About a year ago, the bosses at C.W. Mining, also known as Co-Op, fired all 75 coal miners at the mine here because they were fighting for safety on the job, against company victimization of fellow workers, and for union representation. The miners turned the lockout into a strike and set up picket lines outside the mine. After the miners received widespread support for their struggle from the labor movement, especially in the West, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upheld charges filed by the UMWA that the workers had been illegally fired. The NLRB ordered the mine bosses to reinstate all 75 miners, and after the majority of the strikers signed a petition demanding a union representation election, the labor board mandated that a vote be held later this year. The company then made the miners an unconditional offer to return to work, and a number of strikers were back on the job as of July 12.

The NLRB subsequently held a hearing in Price, Utah, to determine who will be eligible to vote in the union election. The IAUWU claims it has over 100 members, most of whom are Kingston family members or relatives. The UMWA has argued that these people should not be allowed to vote because of their loyalty to and direct connections with the Co-Op owners. The labor board has not yet announced its ruling on the eligibility question or the date for the union vote.

The miners reported that at a September 5 meeting at the local park in Huntington they discussed building a one-year anniversary celebration of their struggle. The event will be held at noon October 2 at the UMWA hall in Price, Utah.

The miners reported that a delegation of members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) from Seattle, Washington, will be coming to the event. The ILWU and the King County Labor Council in Seattle are asking unionists to send letters to the NLRB urging it to rule that Kingston family members not be allowed to vote in the union election.

Messages of solidarity and financial support can be sent to the Co-Op Miners at UMWA District 22, 525 East 100 South, Price, UT 84501. Tel: (435) 637-2037; Fax: (435) 637-9456.

Letters to the labor board can be sent to NLRB Region 27, 600 17th St., 7th Floor-North Tower, Denver, CO 80202-5433 Attention: B. Allan Benson, Regional Director. Tel: (303) 844-3551; Fax: (303) 844-6249.  
 
 
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