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   Vol. 67/No. 46           December 29, 2003  
Stakes are high in Co-Op strike
The messages of support read at the December 13 solidarity rally to back the striking Co-Op miners—from miners in Christchurch, New Zealand, to meatpackers on strike in Jefferson, Wisconsin—and the expanded picket line of 100 earlier that day outside the mine near Huntington, Utah, show the potential to expand backing for this struggle.

The examples reported in this week’s lead article can and need to be multiplied on campuses, in union halls, factories, rural areas, churches, community centers and a multitude of other places across the United States. As the message from the New Zealand miners indicates, solidarity from around the world can become a factor in the outcome of this battle as well.

The strike by these 75 coal miners—for a union, for their jobs, for safety and dignity—is the most important labor battle in the United States today. It has the potential to become a real social struggle—involving forces from the working class and other social strata way beyond the organized labor movement.

If the workers at Co-Op win, their success will give a boost to the entire United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)—first in the West and then more broadly—and strengthen the hand of coal miners everywhere fighting for their livelihood and safety on the job. A victory by the miners will provide impetus to other union organizing efforts. If the company prevails, the bosses will have blood in their mouths to press their antiunion drive.

The UMWA, which has a history of being one of the strongest and most combative unions in the United States, has been dealt serious blows the last 25 years as the bosses have shifted the center of coal mining to the West and the union has not kept up in organizing most of the new mines. Some 55 percent of the coal produced in the United States is mined west of the Mississippi, but only about a half-dozen mines in that region are union.

The workers at the Co-Op mine in Utah have refused to accept the status quo. They are setting a different pattern and are winning support—within the UMWA and beyond. These miners, mostly Mexican-born, provide a powerful example of how immigrant workers, bringing with them their own histories and traditions of struggle, strengthen rather than divide and weaken the working class in the United States. They have already shown, after three months on the picket line, that they are determined to persevere.

What’s needed now is for every worker and farmer and others who believe in the rights of working people to weigh in the balance.

Messages of support can be won from many unions, immigrant rights organizations, and churches. Financial contributions can follow. As the holidays approach, collections for the miners and their families—including clothes and toys for the children—food drives, “Adopt a Family” campaigns, and distribution of the miners’ fact sheets (see need to be stepped up. Groups concerned with violations by employers of health and safety standards on the job can bring their skills in helping to spotlight and publicize the dangerous conditions at Co-Op. Students can contact the Student Labor Action Project at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, which has taken the lead among youth in the United States in organizing support for the Co-Op miners, to find out how to garner solidarity among young people on their campus and beyond.

Let’s join these miners in their struggle to beat back the coal barons and reinvigorate the union!
Related articles:
Utah solidarity rally backs Co-Op miners  
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