The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 41           November 9, 2004  
Utah miners fight to reverse firing of UMWA militant
(front page)
HUNTINGTON, Utah—“I had a two-hour meeting with the company, and the bosses insisted that I was fired because I refused orders from a foreman,” said Celso Panduro, a coal miner at the Co-Op mine here, after an October 21 meeting with the employers. “I never refused orders and the company union is not defending me at these grievance meetings.”

Panduro is one of the stalwarts of the effort at Co-Op to win representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which, he says, is the real reason behind his firing. The company union he was referring to is the so-called International Association of United Workers Union (IAUWU), which miners say is run and controlled by the Kingston family, the mine’s owners.

“The IAUWU president at the mine is not defending me,” said Panduro, after three meetings with the company over the grievance against his dismissal. “He even refused to have one of my co-workers, Bill Estrada, as an interpreter at the last meeting because he also supports the UMWA.” The next and last step is a grievance review board meeting, said Panduro, where the company and the IAUWU will have two representatives each and a fifth neutral person, mutually agreed to by both sides. According to the “contract” between the company and the IAUWU, the side that wins a majority vote of the five people, wins the final ruling. Since the IAUWU is taking the side of the bosses, as it has always done, Panduro said, he doesn’t seem to have much of a chance through this sham grievance procedure. After this is exhausted, the UMWA has said it will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demanding his reinstatement, Panduro said.

The NLRB has recognized the IAUWU since 1979. But the miners say this is a boss outfit that has never represented them and has worked on the side of the company against the workers. Proof of that is the fact that the IAUWU is a plaintiff along with C.W. Mining, also known as the Co-Op mine, in a federal lawsuit the Kingstons filed September 24 against the UMWA, 17 Co-Op miners, and over 100 of their supporters and several media—including The Militant—on charges of “unfair labor practices” and “defamation.” The miners also provided affidavits to the NLRB showing that all three local IAUWU officers were bosses and relatives of the mine owners.

“My foreman before the strike, Dana Jenkins, was the local president of the IAUWU,” said Bill Estrada. “Jenkins performed boss’s duties, including disciplining workers, and attended management meetings every week.” During the strike, the company replaced Jenkins with Chris Grundvig as president of the “local,” the miners say. Prior to the strike, the IAUWU never held any meetings and had the company deduct $8 in union dues from some miners against their wishes. When C.W. Mining and the company union signed a “contract” in 2001, several miners say bosses cornered workers one by one and coerced them into signing the document. In addition, two of the three local IAUWU officers, Dana Jenkins and Warren Pratt, live at Trail Canyon Road, two miles from the mine, where only Kingston relatives reside. The third officer, Chris Grundvig, lives on the road to the mine and is a next-door neighbor to the mine superintendent, the miners report. Several miners provided the NLRB with this information through a series of interviews a year ago, said Estrada. The IAUWU admits it only has one “local,” at Co-Op, but claims it has three union international officers based in Salt Lake City. According to Co-Op miners, these three are also tied to the Kingstons.

An October 23 front-page article in the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Ronald and Vicki Mattingly, who are listed as two of the IAUWU “international officers,” attended a court hearing in support of John Daniel Kingston and his wife, Heidi Mattingly Foster, who face ongoing allegations of physical abuse and neglect of their 11 children.

“The action drew about 50 family and friends, including Heidi’s parents Vicki and Ronald Mattingly, to the courthouse Friday in support of the couple,” said the Tribune. “The Mattinglys declined to comment.”

John Daniel Kingston is known for belt-whipping his daughter, Mary Ann Kingston, after she fled her forced marriage to John Daniel’s brother, David Ortell Kingston. John Daniel Kingston pled guilty and served time in jail.

The Kingstons are a capitalist clan that has amassed an over $150 million business empire in six western states, including the Co-Op mine here.

The miners have been asking their supporters to send letters on their behalf to the NLRB to set a date for a union representation election at Co-Op and to rule in favor of the UMWA’s demand to exclude members of the owners’ family and other supervisory personnel from being eligible to vote. The bosses are claiming that over 100 of their relatives should have a right to vote as seasonal, temporary, or office workers. The UMWA refuted this claim at a July 20-21 hearing in Price, Utah, maintaining that all Kingstons working at the mine are related to the owners and their loyalty is with “The Order,” as the Kingstons’ empire is known.

The hearing took place after a good number of Co-Op miners who were on strike for nearly 10 months returned to the job in early July after a settlement between the UMWA and the company that the NLRB brokered. C.W. Mining fired all 75 miners Sept. 22, 2003, for defending coworkers victimized by the company for their efforts to bring in the UMWA. The miners also demanded better wages and safer working conditions. They were paid between $5.25 and $7 an hour, while hourly wages for underground miners in the U.S. average at least $17. The NLRB ruled the miners had been fired illegally and ordered the company to take them back.

Letters to the NLRB should be sent to: NLRB Region 27, attention B. Allan Benson, director, 600 17th Street, 7th Floor—North Tower, Denver, CO 80202-5433. Tel: (303) 844-3551; Fax: (303)844-6249. Copies of these letters and other messages of support and financial donations to the Co-Op miners’ struggle can be sent to: UMWA District 22 at 525 East, 100 South, Price, UT 84501. Tel: (435) 637-2037 Fax: (435) 637-9456.  
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