The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 38           November 3, 2003  
UMWA statement backs
embattled Utah miners

The following press release was issued by the United Mine Workers of America on Oct. 6, 2003. It was titled “United Mine Workers of America Supports Struggle of Coal Miners Unjustly Fired from Utah’s Co-Op Mine for Fighting to Join the Union”.


At the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Special Convention last week in Las Vegas, UMWA International President Cecil Roberts pledged the union will assist the coal miners—mostly from Mexico—who were fired from C.W. Mining Company’s Bear Canyon mine (known also as Co-Op mine) in Huntington, Utah. Seventy-four miners’ jobs were terminated after they protested the firing of one of their leaders for seeking union representation.

Seven of the fired Co-Op miners joined Roberts at the convention hall podium where their spokesman, Jesus H. Salazar Jr., described their plight—earning between $5.25 and $7 per hour with “no health insurance and no benefits in an unsafe, underground mine.”

“We stand with these workers in solidarity as they fight for justice and dignity,” Roberts told more than 500 convention delegates at the closing session Sept. 30. “We call on all American workers to support their struggle because we believe ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’”

“We are here looking for the UMWA’s indispensable support because we were unjustly fired for defending our rights and protesting the mine’s unsafe working conditions,” Salazar said. “We are determined to fight until this mine becomes UMWA territory and we can put an end to the abuse and extreme level of exploitation we have endured.” Currently, 75 percent of the mine’s 83 hourly workers have signed a representation petition with the UMWA.

“It was heartwarming to see our union delegates’ overwhelming support of the Co-Op miners as they struggle for workers’ rights and fairness,” said UMWA District 22 International Executive Board Member Mike Dalpiaz of Price, Utah. “We’ll be with them from the beginning to the end of their fight.”

The Co-Op workers struck the mine on Sept. 22 after management—controlled by the Kingston family—had suspended one of their co-workers, UMWA supporter William Estrada, for refusing to sign a disciplinary warning the week before. It was the company’s third attempt to victimize a UMWA supporter in recent weeks, according to the Co-Op miners.

“We all walked out in defense of our co-worker,” explained Salazar, who has worked at the Co-Op mine for four years. “The company refused to cooperate with us and fired us. We have been locked out because of our pro-union activity. Now, we’re fighting back, and we want to be part of the UMWA. We are at a critical point in our fight. The company expects us to come back begging for our jobs.”

“We won’t go back to work until we get everybody back to work,” said fired Co-Op miner Alyson Kennedy of Price, Utah. “We won’t stop fighting until we get union representation.” Describing the mine’s “bad working environment,” she noted there is no bathhouse where female miners can change clothes.

“We demand that our workers be reinstated with back pay, and we demand fair wages,” said the Co-Op delegation to the UMWA convention. “We are tired of the abuses, lies and trickery of the fake company-led ‘union’ that Co-Op has maintained for years in the workplace. Our plea to the UMWA is to help us defend our dignity and our families.”
Related article:
UMWA union locals in West back locked-out Utah miners  
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