On the Picket Line

Striking silver miners rally at bosses’ Idaho headquarters

By Edwin Fruit
August 6, 2018

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Some 100 silver miners and their supporters gathered outside the Hecla bosses’ corporate headquarters here July 20 to show support for the ongoing strike by United Steelworkers Local 5114. The workers have been on strike at the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho, since March 2017.

The mine bosses said they would impose their “final offer,” increase miners’ medical insurance payments, cut a key part of miners’ weekly pay by slashing the silver premium and bonus pay, and gut safety protections. A key sticking point was the bosses’ insistence on doing away with a team bidding system based on seniority that lets workers choose their crews, which helps protect safety on the job.

“We want to show the company that we are still here standing strong and that we have the support of the community and many other unions as well,” Dave Roose, chief negotiator and newly elected president of the union, told the Militant.

In addition to the thousands of dollars that other unions have contributed to their hardship fund, he said the USW has donated $2.8 million to help union members and their families.

Rick Norman, a continuing stalwart on the picket line, said close to 50 percent of the 250 strikers now work out of state, and another 35 percent are working other jobs in northern Idaho. Norman is part of a “Road Warriors” team that has traveled around the U.S. and Canada to confront Hecla bosses at meetings they attend.

Among those joining the protest were members of the Teamsters; Laborers’ International Union; International Longshore and Warehouse Union members from Tacoma and Aberdeen, Washington; United Food and Commercial Workers; representatives from several USW locals from Spokane, Washington, Utah and Arizona; and members of the Democratic Socialists of America and Socialist Workers Party.

Donations and messages of support can be sent to USW 5114, P.O. Box 427, Mullan, ID 83846.