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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 4February 2, 2004


Thursday, January 15, 2004

To our readers:

Effective today our new mailing address is 306 W. 37th Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10018. This is the address for the new premises that we will be moving into at the end of February.

Please send all mail to the new address.

This is also the correct address for the 2004 Headquarters Building Appeal. Please note this is a change. The address in the Headquarters Appeal by Joel Britton also posted on www.themilitant.com has been changed accordingly. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Argiris Malapanis, Editor

Contributions to the $150,000 HQ Building Fund accelerate
Read the appeal for contributions to the fund to help build a new Pathfinder bookstore and distribution center in New York, by Joel Britton, one of the fund directors.

lead article
Striking Utah miners
on labor tour in Bay Area
San Jose Labor Council invites miners, backs UMWA-organizing fight
Militant/Bernie Senter
Striking miners address January 15 meeting of International Longshore Workers Union Local 10 in San Francisco. From left, Ricardo Chávez, Benito Meza, Alyson Kennedy, and Juan Salazar. In the first five days of the tour the miners spoke to 600 people and raised more than $8,500.

SAN FRANCISCO—Juan Salazar, Ricardo Chávez, Benito Meza, and Alyson Kennedy arrived here January 12 for an intensive effort in the Bay Area to win solidarity with their struggle for union recognition at the Co-Op mine near Huntington, Utah. In the first five days of the labor tour, the coal miners spoke to 600 people and raised more than $8,500. The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (AFL-CIO) in San Jose organized the tour.

The miners addressed the executive board of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, as well as the local’s membership meeting. They also spoke at executive board meetings of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 2 and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790 in San Francisco, and Teamsters Local 287 in San Jose.

The workforce of 75 at the Co-Op mine was fired to the person by the bosses September 22 for protesting unsafe working conditions, attempting to organize into the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and standing up to disciplinary actions by the company against union supporters. CW Mining, also known as Co-Op, was paying the miners $5.25 to $7 an hour, compared to $15 to $20 hourly wages at most other coal companies. The miners, mostly immigrants from the state of Sinaloa in Mexico, have refused to return to work without the company recognizing the UMWA.

Some 250 members of ILWU Local 10 heard a presentation on the strike by Juan Salazar at their January 15 meeting, and another 80 at the executive board meeting two days earlier. The dockworkers voted for the ILWU to contribute $1,000 to the miners’ strike fund, and donated another $1,375 when the hat was passed around the meetings.

“This is a new experience for us,” Salazar told the Militant in an interview. “We’ve never seen struggles of workers to unionize here in the United States.” Salazar, 28, has worked at Co-Op as a machine operator for three years. “This is the first time we have fought for a union,” he said. “It’s interesting to see people already in unions now and learn of the struggles they waged to get their union.”

Meza, 23, has run all of the underground mine equipment in his four years at Co-Op. He said it was impressive to see paintings and pictures of the struggles of longshore workers inside their union hall. “We’ve received a lot of support from people,” he said, after noting he didn’t know what to expect when he decided to join the miners’ tour in the Bay Area.

“What impressed me about the longshore workers,” said Kennedy, “was not the number that came up to say it’s really terrible what happened to you, but instead those who had concrete ideas on how to make the strike better. People want to actually be a part of this.” Kennedy, 53, has worked at the Co-Op mine for eight months, and in other mines for a dozen years.

The ILWU voted to send a representative to the upcoming UMWA solidarity rally scheduled for February 7 in Huntington. The union members, many of whom are Black, also voted to send the Local 10 drill team to Utah for the rally. “We have to get people there,” one union member told the miners.

The miners were stunned by the generous decision of the 9,000-member HERE Local 2 in San Francisco to donate $5,000 on the spot to the strikers after a lively discussion in the executive board. HERE members asked about the company union at the mine where the union officers are the mine bosses. Salazar explained that the company created this “union” just to get in the way of the workers organizing themselves into a real union, the UMWA. “They did the same thing at the Marriott,” said Mike Casey, HERE Local 2 president. “They tried to create a company union there.” After a six-year fight with scores of boisterous picket lines involving hundreds of people in front of the downtown San Francisco hotel, the union won a contract in 2002.

At the same time as the miners were in the Bay Area getting support for their strike, about 60 grocery store workers from Southern California were in San Jose and San Francisco with daily picket lines at selected Safeway stores. About 70,000 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members have been on strike about the same length of time as the miners, in their fight against company attempts to gut health-care coverage and wages. (See article on home page.) The miners and grocery store workers spent hours together exchanging experiences. They jointly addressed some union bodies, walked the picket line together, and arranged to stay in the same hotel for a couple of days as their tours crossed paths. Ed Tillerson, who has worked at Ralphs grocery chain for 38 years and is an organizer of the San Jose picketing, helped make the miners feel welcome. “It’s been a real pleasure meeting the miners and learning about their fight,” he said. “We’re all in this together and we can’t allow ourselves to continue being taken advantage of. We have to stick together.”

The San Francisco Day Laborers Program invited the miners to speak at their meeting. A number of day laborers expressed interest in going to the February 7 solidarity rally in Huntington.

The miners also spoke to the San Francisco Labor Council and South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council executive board. Generous collections were taken at each of the meetings.

“The support we got from the labor movement here,” said Chávez, “filled us with a lot of energy to keep going with our struggle. People have been so warm and open.” Chávez, who is 66 years old, has worked at Co-Op for one year. He had also been a part of numerous struggles for land in Mexico.

The miners described their struggle at a meeting in San Jose organized by the Voluntarios de la Comunidad (Community Volunteers). The group has helped mobilize thousands of people in the fight for driver’s licenses for immigrants. The 40 people attending the meeting raised $222 in contributions for the miners.

Pacifica radio station KPFA interviewed the miners for two programs. Spanish-language television and newspapers interviewed them as well.

A public meeting for the miners was also held January 18 at Centro del Pueblo, a community center in San Francisco’s Mission District. “I hope we can work together with the coal miners, to be in solidarity with them to get back their rights,” Fei Yi told the gathering of 90 people. Yi and Lisa Chen are both former garment workers who waged fights against unfair layoffs and for back pay. They addressed the meeting on behalf of the Chinese Progressive Association. Trent Willis, an ILWU Local 10 business agent, chaired the meeting. The panel included Tracey Richardson, who spoke for the striking UFCW grocery workers, a dozen of whom attended; Lamoin Werlein-Jaén, vice-president of HERE Local 2; Walter Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Labor Council; and Rick Trujillo of the San Jose Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, which sponsored the tour. A dozen striking UFCW grocery workers attended the meeting.

“I have met people I would never have met before,” Chávez stated. “This tour has been a big surprise for me, especially the support by the unions. The reception was better than expected.”
Related articles:
Salt Lake picket backs Co-Op strike

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