The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 36           October 5, 2004  
UMWA: Build Oct. 2 union rally in Utah
Back Co-Op miners’ organizing struggle
(front page)
SALT LAKE CITY—“We thank everyone for your ongoing support and invite you to attend and publicize the October 2 anniversary rally we are holding at the UMWA union hall in Price, Utah,” said Celso Panduro. A coal miner at the Co-Op mine near Huntington, Utah, and one of the supporters of the struggle to win representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at the mine, Panduro spoke at the end of a September 18 picket here in front of the law offices of Carl Kingston.

A prominent member of the Kingston clan, a wealthy capitalist family that owns the Co-Op mine, Carl Kingston is the main company lawyer.

The day before the picket, UMWA Region 4, which covers the western states of Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, and Montana, sent a letter to the hundreds of union locals and other organizations and individuals who have extended solidarity to the Co-Op miners’ union organizing struggle. The letter, signed by Bob Butero, UMWA Region 4 director, invited everyone to attend the anniversary rally.

“The Co-Op miners and the United Mine Workers of America want to thank community activists, local unions, and union members, for their support in the struggle,” the letter says. “The Co-Op miners traveled throughout the country and met many unionists. Your continued support and solidarity has been greatly appreciated.

“Beginning at 12:00 noon on Saturday, October 2, 2004, a Co-Op Miners Anniversary Rally will be held at the UMWA in Price, Utah, and we want to invite you to attend. If you can’t attend, you can send a message to be read at the Rally. Send information to the United Mine Workers of America Office located at 525 East 100 South, Price Utah 84501. Telephone (435) 637-2037 or Fax (435) 637-9456—Co-Op Miners Anniversary Rally.”

“September 22 marks the one-year anniversary of our strike,” said Bill Estrada, another Co-Op miner who addressed the crowd following the September 18 picket. “On that day last year, 75 miners at the Co-Op mine in Huntington were fired for union activity. After a 10-month battle, we are now back to work. But this fight is far from over. Because of the solidarity we received, the National Labor Relations Board was forced to rule that the Co-Op bosses illegally fired us and ordered the mine owners to reinstate everyone in July. We need to continue to put pressure on the NLRB to rule that the Kingston family members who work at the mine not be allowed to vote in an upcoming union election.”

The miners asked everyone to sign a petition addressed to the NLRB in Denver, Colorado. At a hearing the labor board conducted in Price in July, the Co-Op miners and UMWA attorneys presented evidence that the Kingston family members work at the Co-Op mine because of their connections to the owners and are thus loyal to the company. For this reason, they argued, these employees—who include managerial and office personnel— should not be allowed to vote in the upcoming union election.

Carl Kingston and Mark Hansen, the attorney for the company union, represented the company’s position that all these people, whom miners say the bosses brought to the mine to defeat the UMWA organizing effort, are legitimate employees and should vote in the union election.

Months later, the NLRB, has yet to make a ruling on who is eligible to vote or set a date for the union election, Estrada said.

The UMWA letter by Bob Butero also asked for letters to be sent to the NLRB. “Please write the NLRB and urge the Board to rule that no Kingston family member be allowed to vote in the union election,” it said.

The Utah Jobs with Justice Co-Op miners solidarity committee organized the September 18 picket. About 30 people took part. They included four Co-Op miners; several members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) from the Salt Lake area; and a member of the Heat and Frost Insulators Union.

“This event was good,” said Ricardo Chávez, one of the Co-Op miners who took part in the picket line. “We need public support so that the NLRB will move to resolve who votes in the election. We returned to work with the expectation that the NLRB will decide rapidly on the union election. I hope we have everyone with us on October 2. The more people we have there will have an impact on the NLRB.”

“I attended the picket to support the coal miners,” Cory Bushman, a student at the University of Utah, told the Militant. “I’ve come to many of the other picket lines for the miners. It is important for people my age to be part of real life situations and not just focus on getting a great job. We can make a huge difference in the future if we are aware of what’s going on.” Bushman said she plans to help post up flyers on the October 2 rally on campus and help get students to attend.

The miners said that they have been spreading the word about the October 2 rally to unionists and other supporters.

“Last week the UMWA local at the Deer Creek mine invited us to attend their union meeting,” said Alyson Kennedy, who was part of the miners’ delegation in Salt Lake City. “After hearing a report on where the organizing battle stands, this local, one of only two in the state of Utah, voted to make a $500 contribution to the October 2 meeting. They also are donating 10 UMWA hats and 10 UMWA T-shirts to a raffle that will be held at the rally. They will have a delegation attend and speak.”

The letter from Butero said that messages to the NLRB urging the board to set a date for a union vote and to back the UMWA on who should have the right to vote in the election should be sent to NLRB Region 27, attn: B. Allan Benson, director, 600 17th Street, 7th Floor—North Tower, Denver, CO 80202-5433. Tel. (303)844-3551. Fax. (303)844-6249.  
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