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Co-Op miners in Utah press union-organizing fight
Workers picket loadout where bosses are training replacements
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 16April 25, 2005


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lead article
Co-Op miners in Utah
press union-organizing fight
Workers picket loadout where bosses are training replacements
Militant/Luis Astorga
Co-Op miners and supporters picket Rail Co. Coal Load Out, owned by C.W. Mining, April 13. The facility is being used to hire and train replacements for the unionists.

PRICE, Utah—Coal miners who worked at the Co-Op mine and their supporters picketed at the road leading to Rail Co. Coal Load Out near Price, Utah, April 13. The miners have been fighting for 18 months to win representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). They were joined by UMWA retired miners.

Rail Co. has the same owners as C.W. Mining’s Co-Op mine. It is the location where coal from Co-Op and other mines is trucked before being transported by train to other parts of the country. A loadout owned by another company is adjacent to Rail Co. Coal trucks come to these two facilities from mines throughout Utah.

Miners and their supporters held signs in English and Spanish that read: “We want our jobs back,” “Yes to UMWA at the Co-Op mine,” and “No contractors at Co-Op.” Drivers of coal trucks and other vehicles passing by honked their horns in support.

This was the second time workers have picketed the facility since Co-Op miners learned that C.W. Mining has established a contracting outfit at Rail Co. through one of its bosses, Shain Stoddard. Miners say Stoddard is offering between $5.25 and $7.00 an hour for underground coal miners at Co-Op. Wages for underground mining in the U.S. average at least $17 an hour.

The picketing miners were fired December 9 for supporting the UMWA. They are demanding their jobs back and ratification of the union representation election held on December 17. The National Labor Relations Board has not issued any decision on the ballots cast by the miners, most of whom back the UMWA.

A Co-Op boss, identified by the miners as Shain Stoddard, parked his car in the road, and walked in front of the miners and their supporters to provoke them—without success. “What’s going on here, guys?” he said. Feigning ignorance, he asked the workers, “Who are you picketing?” Stoddard continued asking questions to no response. A haul truck driver delivering coal to the loadout drove past the picket line and loudly honked his horn in support. Stoddard left.

“We’re here to demand our jobs back with back pay,” said José Contreras, one of the fired miners. Contreras held a sign that said, “Honk for support.”

Miners are pursuing their fight for the union. On April 14, three Co-Op miners will address the meeting of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 9 at the Trapper mine in Craig, Colorado. A delegation of Co-Op miners will also attend the April 18 Changing Woman conference in Farmington, New Mexico, which is sponsored by IUOE Local 953 and the University of New Mexico Law School. The conference will take up discrimination facing women who are working or trying to get jobs in the mines, or who work other non-traditional jobs. It will also discuss how the labor movement can combat such practices.

“Picketing helps show the public that the fight is still on,” said Abel Aragón, a retired miner from UMWA Local 9958 who joined the picket line of 10 people. Aragón invited two fellow UMWA retirees, who came to hear news on the Co-Op struggle and express their solidarity just before the picket line began. All three joined the picket. “This helps get people to support the fight,” Aragón said. “See you next time.”

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