Back strikers’ five monthlong battle against Asarco union busting

By Bernie Senter
March 30, 2020

Five months into their strike, over 1,700 copper miners are standing up against Asarco’s union-busting drive. They’ve kept up picket lines 24/7 and reached out for solidarity and support.   

The company, which has three mines — Mission, Ray and Silver Bell — and a smelter in Arizona, and a refinery in Amarillo, Texas, is demanding a four-year wage freeze for most workers after 10 years without a pay raise. It seeks to double or even triple health care costs, freeze pensions and restrict the unions’ right to protect workers on the job. 

Asarco refuses to bargain with the United Steelworkers, Teamsters and five other unions. Instead it imposed its “last, best and final” contract. Asarco has kept some production going with some 300 workers who have crossed the picket lines, replacement workers, nonunion contractors and supervisors. 

Like many strikers, David Copeland, who worked at Asarco’s Mission and Ray mines for 20 years, has had to get another job to help make ends meet. 

On his days off, he does picket duty at the Silver Bell Mine in Marana, Arizona. “Picket lines have been filling up with new faces,” he told the Militant  by phone March 16. “Strikers who were AWOL the first few months are coming out picketing.”

Asarco has been pressing the National Labor Relations Board to decertify USW Local 937 as the union representing the workers at the Silver Bell Mine. Nearly 150 workers are employed there. The company says over 90% have crossed the picket line and that only the 11 workers on strike are members of the union. 

The unions reported March 11 that the NLRB “rejected a petition by Asarco to prompt an election to remove the USW as the representative of Silver Bell employees.” The company is appealing the ruling. The NLRB has still not ruled on the unions’ unfair labor practices petition.  Asarco is owned by Grupo Mexico, one of the world’s largest mining conglomerates.

Solidarity with the strikers is crucial. According to USW Local 886, the union pantry at the 915 union hall in Kearny, Arizona, was forced to close March 16 “until further notice” because large grocery chains are “limiting their stock.” The limits are a result of the run on their supplies from people panic-buying for fear of the coronavirus outbreak. 

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 for Tucson-area strikers. Solidarity messages can be sent to  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.