Strike against Asarco union busting continues

By Bernie Senter
and Deborah Liatos
April 20, 2020

“We’re still standing strong and have no trouble keeping the picket lines going,” striking copper miner Lyle Murphy told the Militant by phone April 7. Murphy is president of United Steelworkers Local 5252 in Kearny, Arizona, and has worked at the Ray Mine 16 years.

Six months into a bitter strike against copper mining giant Asarco, 1,700 miners in Arizona and Amarillo, Texas, members of the Steelworkers, Teamsters and five other unions, have been fighting the company’s drive to bust their unions.

The bosses have demanded extending the decadelong wage freeze for most workers, hiking up health care costs, and restricting the unions’ right to protect workers on the job.

Despite government-imposed restrictions in response to the coronavirus, “everyone’s doing a hell of a job,” Murphy said. “We keep the lines down to six people now.  No kids. No pets. The union provides everything strikers need — food, water, disinfectant.” Murphy said the company is still operating the Ray Mine, which the government told bosses they consider an “essential” business.

Pickets also remain up at the Hayden smelter. It’s a “constitutionally protected” activity, USW Local 886 President Greg Romero said March 31.

That same day at the Mission and Silver Bell mines outside of Tucson, “we decided to shut down the picket lines for now,” USW Local 937 recording secretary and working miner Eduardo Placencio said. “But we’re still on strike. We still have the food pantry going Monday through Friday,” and union benefits continue.

A similar decision was made to temporarily cut back picketing at the Asarco refinery in Amarillo for at least two weeks.

“Two picket captains staff the shack Tuesday through Friday from 12 to 6 p.m.,” Leonardo Segura, vice president of USW Local 5613 and picket captain for the strike there, told the Militant. “We still have the food pantry at the union hall open where strikers can pick up groceries and grocery store cards.”

Since the day the walkout started in October, solidarity has come in for the strikers from workers in the area and beyond, and visits to the picket lines by retirees, former Asarco miners, family members and other working people. Messages of support have come in, as well as food, financial and other donations.

The company keeps some production going, with workers who have crossed the picket lines, replacement workers, nonunion contractors and supervisors.

Send solidarity messages and donations 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.