Seventy-four coal miners at C.W. Mining Companys Bear Canyon mine (known also as Co-Op mine) in Huntington, Utah, were illegally fired from their jobs on Sept. 22, 2003, after they protested the suspension of a co-worker and unsafe job conditions. The mine, owned by the Kingston family, had suspended UMWA supporter William Estrada for refusing to sign a disciplinary warning the week before. At the time, it was the companys third attempt to victimize a UMWA supporter, according to the Co-Op miners.
These workers, mostly Mexicans, contend they were fired and locked out by the company because of concerted activities and unsafe conditions. The Co-Op miners allege:
On Sept. 23, the UMWA filed unfair labor practice charges against C.W. Mining before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stating: The regular hourly workforce was discriminated against in regard to hire and tenure of employment by being discharged for protected, concerted activity.
On Oct. 3, the UMWA assisted in setting up picket lines at the Co-Op mine to support the striking miners. The miners spouses, who formed an auxiliary group, are preparing hot food and feeding those on the picket line. The pickets are organized in 6-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
United Mine Workers of America Vows to Support Struggle of Coal Miners Unjustly Fired from Utahs Co-Op Mine for Fighting to Join the Union
At the UMWA Special Convention Sept. 29-30 in Las Vegas, International President Cecil Roberts pledged the union will assist the coal miners who were fired from C.W. Mining Companys Co-Op mine.
Seven of the 74 fired Co-Op miners joined Roberts at the convention hall podium where their spokesman, Jesus H. Salazar Jr., described their plightearning 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 the 550 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 UMWAs indispensable support because we were unjustly fired for defending our rights and protesting the mines 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 mines 83 hourly workers have signed a representation petition with the UMWA.
We all walked out in defense of our co-worker, explained Salazar, who has worked at the Co-Op mine four years. The company refused to cooperate with us and fired us. We have been locked out because of our pro-union activity. Now, were 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 wont go back to work until we get everybody back to work, said fired Co-Op miner Alyson Kennedy of Price, Utah. We wont stop fighting until we get union representation. Describing the mines bad working environment, she noted that female miners have no bathhouse to 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.
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. Well be with them from the beginning to the end of their fight.
Since the UMWA convention, labor unions from across Utah and other states have responded to the striking miners plea. Recent support has come from the New Mexico Federation of Labor and University of Utah students and professors, who gathered food and funds to deliver at a Solidarity Rally on Sunday, Oct. 26.
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