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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 45December 7, 2004

lead article
Labor board: Mine bosses’ relatives
can’t vote in union election in Utah
UMWA: ‘Significant victory’
in fight for union at Co-Op mine
Militant/Terri Moss
Bob Guilfoyle, deputy director of organizing for UMWA's western region, addresses Co-Op miners, union retirees, others at November 21 meeting in Huntington, Utah.

HUNTINGTON, Utah—More than 50 current and former Co-Op miners, retired members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and their spouses, and UMWA representatives turned out for a November 21 meeting at the Town Hall here. They came to discuss recent rulings by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) favorable to the miners and the next steps in the fight to establish UMWA representation at Co-Op.

The labor board ruled November 18 that supervisory personnel and relatives of the Kingston family that owns the mine will not be allowed to vote in an upcoming union representation election at Co-Op. Miners will be able to choose between the UMWA, the so-called International Association of United Workers Union that miners say is a company outfit, or no union at all. The tentative date for the election is December 16.

“The campaign to win the union has been long and hard, and the fight is not over,” said Juan Salazar, a leader of the Co-Op miners’ struggle, who addressed the meeting. “We know the company is not giving up. They are going after us. They are stepping up their attacks against us miners. They are encouraging miners to get jobs at other mines. We have to be vigilant, strong, and firm in the face of this.”

“This NLRB ruling is a significant victory,” said Bob Guilfoyle, deputy director of organizing for the UMWA’s western region. “It shows if we stick together, justice will prevail.”

Co-Op managers have said that C.W. Mining, which operates the mine, will appeal the ruling.

The latest NLRB decision comes on the heels of another ruling siding with the miners. On November 2, the labor board said the Co-Op bosses must pay back wages to 47 miners amounting to some $400,000. In June the NLRB had ruled that the miners were illegally fired from their jobs Sept. 23, 2003, for union activity and ordered C.W. Mining to reinstate the workers.

B. Allan Benson, NLRB Region 27 director based in Denver, Colorado, issued the latest ruling. “I find that the employees of C.W. Mining Company’s Co-Op Mine, who are related by blood or marriage to past or present members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, Inc. (the Kingston family), are excluded from the appropriate unit for the purposes of collective bargaining,” Benson said in the decision. “There are approximately 64 eligible employees in the unit found to be appropriate.”

According to the NLRB documents, the UMWA presented convincing evidence that Davis Co-Op employees should be excluded from the voting because “they owe a strong allegiance to that organization and its leaders exercise control over members, as well as the employer … and lack the same economic interests as other employees and that they participate in an alternative economic system.”

The NLRB noted that, based on the company’s records, there were approximately 220 full- and part-time employees at Co-Op. It ruled that 156, or 71 percent, had ties to the Kingston family.

“These were people who never applied for employment,” Co-Op miner Bill Estrada told the press. “The Kingston family owners just brought them in to stack a union election against the miners.”

“This is a tremendous victory for the Co-Op miners,” said Cecil Roberts, UMWA international president, according to a November 19 union press release. “The mine’s owners saw that the displaced miners were prepared to fight for their rights, and that many of them wanted the UMWA to be their representative. The owners responded to the workers’ desire for UMWA representation by trying to pad the bargaining unit with what clearly would have been Kingston family sympathizers. Now the NLRB has ruled—and quite correctly, I might add—that these family members and relatives should not be allowed to vote. The UMWA looks forward to the opportunity to help these miners gain the wages, benefits, and dignity and respect they are owed—and have earned.”

Co-Op mine managers said they will appeal the labor board’s latest decision. “We feel the NLRB’s ruling is discriminatory against a large portion of workers who deserve to participate,” Co-Op mine manager Charles Reynolds told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The mine owners have until December 2 to file their request for review with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.  
Company harassment intensifies
With the Co-Op mine bosses losing ground, harassment and intimidation by management of UMWA supporters is accelerating on the job, say a number of miners.

Celso Panduro, a leader of the 10-month-long strike at Co-Op who was recently fired from his job at the mine, gave a report at the November 21 meeting. “I was fired because I support the UMWA,” he said. “They took advantage of the fact that I was sick and claimed I refused an order to do a job. This was a drastic move, and I’ve had a series of meetings with the company.

“At the first meeting, eight bosses testified against me. At the final meeting, which took place last week, they told me they would give me two weeks’ pay if I would forget the whole thing. I refused and told them I’ll keep fighting to get my job back.

“They’re going to try to do this to other miners, but it’s important that we fight to make them think twice before they try firing anyone else, and to win my job back.” A petition was circulated at the meeting to be presented to the company stating that Panduro was unjustly fired and demanding he be reinstated.

Alyson Kennedy, another leader of the union campaign at Co-Op, described escalating harassment against her and other members of her crew. This intimidation campaign has stepped up since the recent NLRB rulings, the miner said.

“When I went into work the night after the Huntington Town Hall meeting, my boss, Cyril Jackson, again threatened me with termination if I couldn’t meet the ‘company standard’ of building a stopping by myself in four hours,” she told the press. “In most mines, stoppings, which control ventilation in the mine, are built by two miners working together.

“Jackson told me: ‘If you can’t meet company standards this week, we’ll replace you,’ meaning I would be fired.”

Kennedy described a meeting after the shift where she and two other members of her crew, Jesus Leyva and Bill Estrada, went to talk to Jackson in the foreman’s office to protest the harassment. “While we were talking to Jackson, the surface foreman, Kevin Petersen, walked past us and in a belligerent voice said, ‘Don’t you guys wash your boots, you’re getting this floor dirty.’ Then Petersen shoved me, nearly knocking me to the concrete floor.”

This physical assault raises to a new level the harassment increasingly being meted out by the Kingston bosses, according to Kennedy. “Citing ‘poor work performance,’ the bosses are trying to disguise the victimization of those of us in the mine advocating the UMWA, which is our real crime,” says Kennedy.

Such harassment is in direct violation of the NLRB ruling forcing the company to take back all the miners who were fired unjustly in September 2003. That settlement, signed by C.W. Mining, states: “We [Co-Op mine owners] will not discharge, give oral or written warnings, to suspend or otherwise discriminate against you because you engage in concerted activity protected by Section 7 of the Act or other activity on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America.” The law referred to here is the National Labor Relations Act.

Leaders of the Co-Op union organizing effort are pulling together workers whenever there are victimizations to confront the bosses and push back the harassment.

The Co-Op miners say the day-to-day struggles at the mine and standing up to the bosses are key to preparing for the union representation election.

A committee was set up at the November 21 meeting to help organize visits to every worker eligible to vote at the Co-Op mine to talk about what the bosses are doing on the job and solidify support for the union. UMWA representatives and Co-Op miners encouraged union retirees and other miners who are bilingual to be part of this committee. UMWA retirees have been key backers of the union-organizing struggle at Co-Op from the very beginning. Several of them signed up at the meeting to be part of the organizing committee.

The Co-Op miners are also continuing to reach out. Mike Dalpaiz, UMWA international executive board member for the union’s 22nd district, also addressed the meeting. He invited everyone to attend the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Wilberg mine disaster, near Orangeville, Utah, where 27 miners where killed in an explosion that occurred while the mine owners were pushing for a one-day production record. A commemorative meeting will be held that day, December 19, at the Emery County High School at 4 p.m. It will be followed by a lunch and a march to the monument for the 27 miners.

The news of the Co-Op miners’ victory were prominently covered in both major dailies in Utah—the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News. An Associated Press dispatch on the NLRB ruling was also picked up by the Wyoming Casper Star Tribune. Wyoming is the number one coal producing state in the country with very few union mines.
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Organization of western coal has begun
Socialist miners respond, throw themselves into new openings for unionization

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