In a telephone interview, Norton Sandler, who is organizing these forums, said that Paul Mailhot from Salt Lake City, Utah, will be the featured speaker at the events in Atlanta on April 16 and in Pittsburgh on April 23. Mailhot is helping to organize the endorsement and fund raising efforts for the Militant Fighting Fund in that area. The fund was set up last year to raise financial resources for the campaign to defend the Militant and SWP against this harassment lawsuit.
John Studer, executive director of the Political Rights Defense Fund (PRDF), will speak April 23 at a similar forum in Chicago, Sandler said. PRDF has a history of raising funds and publicizing cases where the Bill of Rights and workers rights are at stake dating back to the early 1970s. PRDF has adopted this case and is organizing the Militant Fighting Fund.
The public forums in Atlanta, Chicago, and Pittsburgh will be held in conjunction with national meetings of socialist workers who are members of the UNITE, United Food and Commercial Workers, and United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) unions. Sandler said all supporters of the case and other defenders of democratic rights from nearby cities are encouraged to attend and bring co-workers, friends, and family members along.
C.W. Mining, which manages the Co-Op mine, and the International Association of United Workers Union (IAUWU), which miners describe as a company union, filed a sweeping lawsuit in September 2004 against the UMWA and its international officers, 17 miners involved in the hard-fought campaign to organize the UMWA at the mine, the major Utah dailies the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret Morning News, the Militant, the SWP, Utah AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, and other defendants. Last December, attorneys for the plaintiffs submitted to the court an amended complaint. About 24 pages of the 70-page complaint allege defamations by the Militant against C.W. Mining and the IAUWU. The suit names the SWP as a defendant on the basis of the false claim that the party owns and controls the socialist newsweekly.
Salt Lake City attorneys Randy Dryer and Michael Petrogeorge represent the Militant and the SWP. The two lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs response to this motion is due by April 15. Attorneys for the Militant and the SWP will then have seven days to submit their rebuttal. Judge Dee Benson, who is presiding over the case, will subsequently set a schedule for oral arguments on the motions to dismiss filed by the various defendants in this lawsuit.
On April 7, company and IAUWU attorneys Carl Kingston and Mark Hansen notified the court that they were stipulating that their case against University of Utah professor Hans Ehrbar had been dismissed without prejudice because they had not served him with notification of the suit within the time limit required by Utah law.
We will use the upcoming forums to explain the issues involved in this case, which will get a hearing from defenders of freedom of the press and freedom of speech everywhere, said Sandler. Coming out of these forums we will launch a drive to win endorsers for PRDFs Militant Fighting Fund and to raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to cover legal expenses for defending the Militant and the Socialist Workers Party.
The initial funds raised to defend the Militant and the SWP have been exhausted, Sandler noted. Thousands more will be spent in preparing the next legal brief and in getting ready for a hearing before the presiding judge. And, we must prepare for the expenses for legal work and publicity to continue regardless of the outcome of the first round of decisions on the lawsuit, he said.
The bosses at Co-Op and the IAUWU are challenging the right of workers involved in a struggle to reach out for support and talk to the press about the conditions they face at the Co-Op mine, safety on the job, and their meager wages, Sandler continued. They accuse the UMWA of being a rabid labor union and the workers at the mine as not being a reputable source for newspapers to quote. These are issues that can impact any struggle for a union, as workers attempt to defend themselves more and more.
The battle at the Co-Op mine that began in September 2003 has drawn wide attention in Utah and elsewhere, Sandler said. But the bosses ask the court to view this as a private matter between them and individual miners. They challenge First Amendment protections for newspapers reporting on what has become a very public dispute between a company intent on maintaining exploitative conditions and mine workers fighting for a union, better wages, safety, and dignity.
C.W. Mining insists that anything but their own interpretation of decisions by government bodies like the National Labor Relations Board is slanderous, Sandler explained.
They also claim the IAUWU is a real union, even though the workers insist it has never represented their interests and has always sided with the bosses and is run by relatives of the owners, he continued. The NLRB has ruled that not a single officer of the IAUWU is eligible to have their vote counted in the union representation election held at the mine last December, because of the family ties those individuals have to the bosses and shareholders of the company.
Sandler said he urges all defenders of democratic rights in the broad regions around Atlanta, Chicago, and Pittsburgh to attend the upcoming forums and donate to the Militant Fighting Fund.
To find out how to help, or to make a contribution, contact PRDF at Box 761 Church Street Station, New York, NY 10007, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal of Pennsylvania case on neutral reporting privilege
Utah coal bosses pursue harassment lawsuit
C.W. Mining lawyers answers miners motion to dismiss case
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