With their strike against Asarco now into its fifth month, copper workers continue to put up their picket lines 24/7 and to win solidarity in the face of the company’s blatant union busting and refusal to negotiate.
“They’re fighting for what they deserve, for their jobs, and we have to support them,” Reyna Freeman told Spanish-language Univision TV Feb. 25 at the Mission Mine picket line in Sahuarita, Arizona. She and her husband had stopped by to drop off firewood. “It’s not the first time we’ve come by. And we are going to keep on supporting them. To do what we can.”
Frank Ortíz, another worker, also came to show solidarity. “I used to work at the Duval mine and we were forced out on strike every few years. So I know what they’re going through,” he said.
“We’ve spoken to local politicians, but I don’t see them putting on any kind of pressure,” striker Kurt Kuta told the reporters.
Some 1,700 workers from seven unions have been on strike since Oct. 13 at Asarco’s mine complexes in Sahuarita, Hayden and Ray in Arizona and its refinery in Amarillo, Texas. The company insists on an extension of the decadelong wage freeze for most of the miners, freezing pensions, doubling or tripling health care costs, and restricting the unions’ right to protect workers on the job.
Bosses have been using supervisors, nonunion contractors, newly hired strikebreakers and about 300 workers who have crossed the line to try to get production back up. But production at the mines is substantially lower than before the strike began.
Grupo Mexico, which owns Asarco, is one of the world’s largest mining conglomerates. It has made clear it doesn’t intend to give in. In a Feb. 26 “earnings conference call” with stockholders and investors, the bosses boasted that they had finally defeated the union at its San Martín underground copper mine in Zacatecas, Mexico, and restarted operations. Workers there had gone on strike 11 years ago.
The mining giant is counting on wearing the Asarco strikers down. That’s why the strike needs to get as broad a hearing among working people as possible and growing public and financial solidarity.
Solidarity from nuclear workers
Down the road from the Amarillo refinery is the Pantex nuclear weapons plant. Workers there “drive by the picket line on their way to work. They bring us water, sausage, biscuits and donuts,” Leonardo Segura, vice president of United Steelworkers Local 5613, told this worker-correspondent Feb. 23 at pickets’ weekly dinner at the Mission Mine. Segura and several other strikers from Texas drove 10 hours to come to the picket line and to participate in a solidarity rally in Phoenix the next day.
“It’s important to come here, so we can see how our brothers and sisters are handling the strike and give them support on the line,” said Segura. The copper workers from Texas visited three strike pickets in Arizona.
“I’ve worked at the Amarillo refinery for a year and this is my first strike,” Brittany Perdue, 30, told the Militant at the Phoenix protest. “Coming out here — it’s good camaraderie.”
Debora Hewitt, who has worked 24 years at the refinery, also made the trip to Arizona. “We’re getting some support for our strike but we need more,” she said at the dinner in Sahuarita. “We’re not giving up.”
Kerri Wilkinson, 26, works at the refinery like her father and grandfather did. She organizes the food pantry for strikers at the local union hall. “We’re not asking Asarco for unreasonable things,” she told the Texas Observer Feb. 19. “We’re asking that they don’t take away what we worked for.”
Members of United Auto Workers Local 862 at two Ford plants in Louisville, Kentucky, sent a contribution of $250 to the strike fund in Kearny. “We hope that our modest token of support has helped during this time when you are fighting for your futures and for your families,” Local President Todd Dunn wrote in a March 2 letter. “Stand strong and know that we in Kentucky support you in your strike for your wages and your working conditions.”
More solidarity is needed — and it is deserved. The miners welcome supporters joining their picket lines and the dinners and movie nights they organize every week. They’d be happy to come and speak to unions and other groups if invited. They need donations to their food pantries and strike funds, and messages of support.
Send financial contributions and solidarity messages to USW Local 915 Strike Assistance, P.O. Box 550, Kearny, AZ 85137; USW Local 5252 Strike Assistance, P.O. Box 896, Kearny, AZ 85137; USW Local 5613, 4230 Texas Hwy 136, Amarillo, TX 79108; or via paypal.me/palfcommunityservice for Tucson area strikers. Solidarity messages can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contribute to the food pantries at: USW 915 and 886 hall, 107 Hammond Dr., Kearny; IBEW Local 570 hall, 750 S. Tucson Blvd., Tucson; USW Local 5613, 4230 Texas Hwy 136 Amarillo, Texas.