The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 45           December 22, 2003  
Utah miners build rally to win
broader support for union fight
(front page)
HUNTINGTON, Utah—In a spirit of solidarity, six Co-Op miners drove to northern Salt Lake City, Utah, December 3 to stand shoulder to shoulder with members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy workers union (PACE) in their fight for a just contract. With signs reading, “Co-Op Miners Joining Forces with PACE Workers,” and “Co-Op Miners Support PACE Workers in their Struggle,” the striking coal miners joined more than two dozen PACE Local 8-578 members at their informational picket line at the Holly Corp. refinery in Woods Cross, Utah. The refinery workers were protesting the company’s attempt to do away with their benefit package. The miners were invited to two PACE local meetings that evening.

“Earlier today we joined your picket to let you know you can count on our support as well,” Jeovani Sosa, a Co-Op miner, told refinery workers at the Local 8-578 meeting. “You are invited to our event in Huntington on December 13 for a rally organized by us and our families.” Sosa and others said the Co-Op miners are preparing to host more than a couple of hundred supporters for this solidarity activity. Taking place three months after their battle began, the rally will mark the miners’ determination to fight to get their jobs back, establish safety on the job, and win union recognition.

The 75 coal miners are involved in an unfair labor practice strike against CW Mining, also known as Co-Op, for illegally being fired September 22, after they protested the unjust suspension of a co-worker. They have the backing of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

At the 8-578 union meeting, the miners were greeted with loud and warm applause when they read a letter from their leadership committee to the PACE local. “On behalf of all the miners on strike at Co-Op, we thank you for all the support you have given us,” the letter said. “We thank you for the generous financial donations of more than $2,000 from all the PACE locals and members and also for the turkeys and food coupons you donated for Thanksgiving. We wish you good luck in your contract fight. We’re with you and just like you’ve given us encouragement so we can win, we also want to encourage you to do the same. And remember the saying: ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’ Esten firmes y no den un paso atras [stay strong and never take a step back]. In solidarity, United Co-Op Miners.”

Before heading back to Huntington, the Co-Op miners addressed another PACE local where they received $200 toward Christmas gifts for their children and more $25 food coupons for their families. The miners also arranged an extended interview for the following week at KRCL Radio. They also received 70 certificates of $30 each from the Utah AFL-CIO to pay for shoes for their children.

The coal strikers are working together with the Co-Op Miners Solidarity Committee in Salt Lake City—a coalition of labor, religious, and student organizations that actively supports the miners on strike—in these projects.

“We are getting ready to host about 200 people from all over to come join us at the picket line and later for a dinner and rally at the local public school,” Ana María Sánchez, a female Co-Op miner, said in a December 5 interview in Huntington. “Our supporters in Salt Lake are driving down in a 57-seat charter bus, cars, and pick-up trucks along with food donations and clothes. This caravan will drive in to the mountain canyon where our picket line is situated. We want to show the Co-Op bosses a show of force that day. I can hardly wait.”

The workers at Co-Op, most of whom were born in Mexico, have turned to and won the backing of the UMWA as they have drawn the line against the bosses’ push to operate the mine under increasingly dangerous conditions, with a pay scale of $5.25 to $7.00 an hour.

The working conditions imposed by the bosses at Co-Op were responsible for three deaths in the last half of the 1990s—half of the total coal mine deaths in Utah. An October 6 UMWA press release noted that as miners were taking steps to organize a union, they were fired en masse after they protested the arbitrary dismissal of one of their co-workers.

“The Co-Op workers struck the mine on Sept. 22 after management—controlled by the Kingston family—had suspended one of their co-workers,” said the statement, “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.”

The Co-Op mine is part of the Kingstons’ $150 million business empire that stretches across six western states. This clan is widely hated among working people in the region not only for its vicious antilabor practices, but also for its record of convictions of several of its members for abuse of young women in the family who have been forced into polygamous marriages with relatives and beaten when trying to escape.

The Co-Op strikers have already won solidarity from other miners in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico; and from PACE members and other trade unionists, as well as students, immigrant rights organizations, and church and community groups in the Salt Lake City area. Solidarity has begun to spread in other parts of the country, as the facts of their struggle are becoming more widely known. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 members in Omaha, Nebraska, for example, recently organized plant-gate collections at the Swift meatpacking plant there for the miners’ strike fund. The December 13 rally is designed to broaden this support.

“We’ve set up committees to organize that day’s events,” said Juan Salazar, another Co-Op miner. “Two people have already volunteered to head up the food and another the publicity work. The miners are inviting speakers from organizations that have supported us all along.”

At a general meeting of all the miners, Sánchez also announced an International Human Rights Day event at the Salt Lake City Public Library on December 10, where a representative of the Co-Op miners is invited to speak. “A lot of us need to be there,” she said. “We’ll have a table with information about our fight. We’ll pass out a leaflet to build the December 13 rally. The organizers of that day’s event will announce our rally and encourage people to sign up for the caravan.”

Sánchez and others pointed out that in addition to participation in the December 13 solidarity action, supporters of the embattled miners can help with funds. Financial donations to the Co-Op miners’ struggle can be sent to: 525 S. 1st St., Price, UT 84501. They should be earmarked for the “Co-Op Miners Relief Fund.”  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home