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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 13April 4, 2005


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published in English and Spanish
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(front page)
Utah miners protest boss plan
to hire replacements for unionists
Militant photos by Terri Moss
Miners fighting to win UMWA representation at the Co-Op mine in Utah picketed company’s Rail Co. Load Out March 23 (above). “Kingstons, you can run but you can’t hide,” said one sign, referring to the owners. “We want our jobs back,” said another. Most miners were fired in December, a week before a union representation election. A truck driver passing by (right) honked in solidarity.

PRICE, Utah—“Protest the illegal firings by Co-Op mine.”

“We want our jobs back.”

“Kingstons: You can run but you can’t hide.”

“Cockroaches: We know where your hiding hole is.”

“Honk for support!”

These were some of the signs in English and Spanish that Co-Op miners held up at an informational picket line March 23 as coal trucks and passenger vehicles drove by on busy Ridge Road a few miles south of Price.

The weather was cold, with freezing rain giving way to hail, and finally sunshine as a dozen miners and supporters pressed their case to get their jobs back at C.W. Mining, owned by the Kingston family, and win recognition as a local of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Spirits were high.

The miners were picketing within sight of Rail Co. Coal Load Out, a Kingston-owned facility. They were also near the house where C.W. Mining boss Shane Stoddard has set up a contracting outfit in his basement, according to the miners, to hire workers for the Co-Op mine.

Dozens of double-trailer trucks bringing coal from area mines pulled into another nearby load out and into Rail Co. to dump their loads for waiting rail cars. A number of mines send their coal to Rail Co., including the Co-Op and other nonunion mines in the area, as well as the Consol mine, whose workforce is organized by the UMWA.

About a third of the many drivers passing by blew their horns in support as they read the signs, some blasting away for a good while. Cheers went up from the miners, who gestured with their hands and arms for the next driver to pull on the horn.

Some of the cars and pickup trucks turning off Ridge Road stopped to get a UMWA leaflet. “I’m for you guys!” one woman yelled. Others expressed their support more quietly, but fervently.

Miners pointed down the road to where they said Stoddard last week was conducting mine safety classes in Spanish and preparing to put people to work at the Co-Op mine right after Easter.

The Co-Op bosses’ moves come as the miners are redoubling their efforts to defeat the Kingston family, which owns Rail Co. and many other businesses in Utah and nearby states. A rally in support of the union-organizing struggle at Co-Op held at the UMWA hall here on March 12 drew miners and their supporters from many areas of the West. Co-Op miners explained the stakes in their fight, how they are reaching out, and how they are stepping up their fight to get jobs at other mines so the Kingstons will not be successful in starving them out.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is investigating charges by the UMWA detailing how the company fired more than 30 pro-union miners last fall to thwart efforts by the workers to be represented by the union. Most were fired on the eve of an NLRB-supervised representation election held on December 17. The board has not ruled on the validity of ballots cast by the fired workers, now more than three months later. Eighteen months have passed since 75 Co-Op miners were fired in September 2003 for refusing to work after the bosses fired one of their fellow miners.

During the picket line on Ridge Road, two of the most gung-ho miners were the youngest.

Humberto Miranda is 24 and worked at Co-Op for a year, operating a buggy (coal shuttle car) underground for $6.30 an hour. “We simply want justice,” he said. With the UMWA, “The bosses will not be able to mistreat us as before, we’ll have more protection. The mine will be safer,” he said.

Francisco Carrillo, 22, held up a “Honk for support!” sign. “Justice, the pay we deserve, the rights we deserve,” said Carrillo, a shuttle car and scoop operator, is what he expects to win with UMWA representation. Carrillo worked at Co-Op for a year.

Raymundo Silva has nine years at the Co-Op mine, including the nine-and-a-half months on strike. A tall man, Silva positioned himself where coal trucks coming up the road from the load out would see his sign first. He explained how he was won over to the UMWA cause during the five months following the strikers’ return to work as part of an NLRB settlement in July.

“I saw the bosses laugh at the miners during the strike,” Silva said. The “abuses at the mine” got to him. A boss “yelled at me to clean four faces, to clean four extra cross-cuts. They called me pendejo, a ‘dummy,’” he said. “They made me work as a roof bolter in water above my knees and refused to pump it out.” With the UMWA as the miners’ union, “Yes, we will force them to pump out the water,” he said. Also on Silva’s list of abuses is that bosses would sometimes refuse to provide drinking water underground, “for two and three days.”

Following the informational picket, miners gathered at the UMWA District 22 offices where they were greeted by several solidarity messages from the day’s mail. “To Future UMWA miners, As promised during the Mar. 12th rally, we’re sending you the $500 check on behalf of L[ocal] U[nion] 1332, Stand on SOLIDARITY. You will win,” says a letter from Navajo coal miners in Arizona. After reading other mail, the miners dispensed funds to each miner not working from the contributions received.

Miners filled out applications for English classes given at the local public library and discussed going to businesses to apply for jobs that same afternoon.

“This picket line was to show them we are not sitting around waiting,” said Juan Salazar, one of the leaders of the union fight. “Each time we do something like this, with people going by expressing support for our fight, it gives us great motivation. We’ll do it again soon!”
Related articles:
Utah mine bosses respond to UMWA brief
Kingstons ask for more time to reply to the ‘Militant’ motion to dismiss harassment case

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