Workers on strike against copper giant Asarco marked day 90 of their strike Jan. 11 with an expanded picket line at the Mission Mine in Sahuarita, Arizona. They are organizing more public actions to win support for their fight against the bosses’ blatant effort to bust their unions.
Some 1,700 workers from seven unions went on strike at four Asarco open pit mining and processing complexes in Arizona and its refinery in Amarillo, Texas, Oct. 13. Workers had voted down the company’s “last and final” contract demands by 77%. Asarco wants to freeze wages and pensions for most workers, double or triple health insurance costs, and gut union rights on the job. Most workers haven’t had a raise in over a decade.
“Asarco is not talking to anyone, the union, the press, anyone,” Karla Schumann, Teamsters Local 104 secretary treasurer, said by phone Jan. 15. “Their silence speaks volumes.” The company has consistently refused to speak with the Militant.
While the Amarillo refinery and the Hayden, Arizona, smelter were shut down by the strike, Asarco, which is owned by Grupo Mexico, one of the world’s largest copper conglomerates, has gotten some production at other complexes. They’re using supervisors, nonunion contractors and some workers who have crossed the picket line. The company has stepped up attempts to hire strikebreakers through employment ads on its website.
Schumann said that strikers are increasing their public activities to get out the word and win support for the strike. On Jan. 13 strikers protested outside the state Capitol in Phoenix to call on legislators to back their fight. On Jan. 20 strikers will march in the Martin Luther King Day parade in Tucson.
The striking copper workers have received widespread solidarity from unionists and other workers in the region, as well as in other parts of the country and from some unions internationally. Workers have brought truckloads of firewood and other supplies.
Asarco workers at the Mission Mine were joined on the picket line Jan. 11 by a labor delegation from California. The Los Angeles Labor Federation and Teamsters Joint Council 42 brought a 52-foot truck with food, including fresh vegetables, for the strikers’ food bank.
The financial contributions and donations of food and other basic necessities have been a big help to strikers, and some have had to find work elsewhere to weather the strike.
“We haven’t had one member lose their home, we’ve never had a repo’ed vehicle and no one’s lights are being shut off,” Ruben Gonzales, vice president of United Steelworkers Local 937, told the press at the expanded picket. “The water is staying on, the gas is staying on.”
Steelworkers Local 1010 in Hammond, Indiana, recently sent a donation of $2,000 to Steelworkers Local 915 in Kearny, Arizona, to aid the strikers, after hearing a report on the strike from Walmart worker Dan Fein, who recently visited the picket lines in Arizona.
“The members of USW Local 1010 stand with our sisters and brothers that are under attack from Asarco!” Local 1010 President Steve Wagner told the Militant Jan. 13. The union will continue to support the Asarco workers as long as the company “does not bargain in good faith with our union sisters and brothers,” he said.
Mine bosses in Arizona’s “copper triangle” have waged an anti-union campaign for decades, seeking higher profits from paying workers less and from disdain for safe working conditions. Besides Asarco, there is only one other union copper mining company left.
The strikers need — and deserve — solidarity. Help spread the word. Supporters are encouraged to visit the picket lines. For strikers at the Mission and Silver Bell complexes near Tucson, send contributions to the Pima Area Labor Federation Community Services via paypal.me/palfcommunityservice. Solidarity messages to the strike can be sent via email@example.com. For strikers at the Ray Mine and Hayden Smelter, send contributions and messages to USW Local 915, Strike Assistance, P.O. Box 550, Kearny, AZ 85137. For strikers at the Amarillo refinery, send to USW Local 5613, 4230 Texas Hwy 136, Amarillo, TX 79108.