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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 5February 9, 2004

 

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lead article
Colorado miners’ locals
mobilize for Utah strikers
Labor solidarity event boosts union-organizing struggle
 
Militant/Josť Aravena
William Kleckler, president of United Mine Workers of America Local 1385 at Seneca mine in Colorado, speaks at January 24 labor solidarity rally for Co-Op miners in Craig, Colorado. On the right are translator Cecelia Lee and rally chairperson Isidro Quezada from the Brotherhood of Operating Engineers Local 9 at nearby Trapper mine.
 
BY FRANCISCO PICADO  
CRAIG, Colorado—Coal miners on strike at the Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah, were the guests of honor at a January 24 labor solidarity rally and fundraiser here attended by 175 people. The meeting was organized by the Craig Committee to Support the Co-Op Miners, which includes members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 1984 at the Deserado mine in Rangely, and of the Brotherhood of Operating Engineers Local 9 at the Trapper mine here, miners from the Twenty Mile mine near Steamboat Springs, and others from this area. UMWA Local 1984 and St. Michael’s Catholic Church co-sponsored the event, which was held at the church.

“In the name of my co-workers who stayed behind in Utah, we want to thank you for the support we see here,” said Gonzalo Salazar, a Co-Op striker who addressed the rally.

The meeting was stamped by the strong participation of UMWA miners from Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties. Representatives of UMWA locals in Rangely, Hayden, and Craig spoke at the rally. Altogether, miners from three UMWA locals, a fourth mine organized by the Brotherhood of Operating Engineers, and a fifth not yet unionized took part. Those present raised more than $2,000 for the Co-Op miners.

“I bring greetings to this meeting in the name of International Board Council member Mike Dalpiaz, District President Fred Lupo, and District Treasurer Floyd Gutierrez,” said Fran Lux, president of retirees Local 1799 of the UMWA at the Empire Mine, which is currently closed. “We all have to hang together—this is a tough battle. But if we watch each other’s backs, we will get through this.”

“We are behind you 100 percent,” said William Kleckler, president of UMWA Local 1385 at the Seneca mine. “I want to call on all folks here to participate in the February 7 meeting in Utah. It will be important if you can make it out there.” Kleckler was referring to the solidarity rally that will take place in Huntington, Utah, which the Co-Op miners have been building throughout the West with the union’s help. UMWA District 22 has sent a letter to all union locals in the region asking them to send representatives to the Huntington rally.

“I am so glad to see the turnout tonight in support of these brothers,” said Carol Miller, a 15-year veteran of UMWA Local 1984 at the Deserado mine. “We may not all speak the same language. But all miners face the same conditions in the mines. The difference is that as UMWA members when we go home at night we know what our wages are going to be next week. We know that if someone in the family gets sick, we will have good health insurance. It is not up to the boss because we are union.”

Miller described the efforts of Local 1984 so far in donating $1,000 in food. She turned over to the chairperson of the rally the latest collection from the last union meeting. In addition, Miller and other miners from the Rangely local loaded the Co-Op miner’s van with 200 pounds of fresh meat to take back with them.

“God said that he will help those who help themselves,” Miller continued. “Well, these miners have helped themselves by walking the line in defense of their rights and deserve every bit of support we can give them.”

In addition to Local 1984, both UMWA locals 1799 and 1385 have sent contributions to the Co-Op miners. Their representatives said these locals will make further donations.

“This company fired us unjustly for carrying out union activity,” Salazar explained at the rally. “All of the miners decided to come down from our post to protest the unjust suspension of a coworker who they alleged had not done his work correctly. What is really behind our firings is our protests against the unsafe, the bad working conditions in this mine.”

Seventy-five coal miners, almost all of them Mexican, are involved in an unfair labor practice strike against CW Mining company, also known as Co-Op, since September 22. The miners have enlisted the support of the UMWA, which has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on the firings and against the company union the bosses have organized in the mine.

“We will not stand any more for the lies and trickery of the so-called union that the bosses have in the mine,” Salazar told the crowd in Craig. “That ‘union’ is composed of bosses and they are all members of the Kingston family. The Co-Op mine is reportedly one of the most profitable business owned by the polygamous Kingston clan in Utah.” Several prominent Kingston family members have been convicted of abusing women after charges were brought against them by young female family members, who were forced to marry relatives while teenagers and were beaten and suffered other abuse when they tried to escape.

Father Roger Lascelle, of St. Michael’s church, opened the meeting with welcoming remarks. “We have always supported the rights of working people,” Lascelle said. “The Mexican community has raised our consciousness on this struggle and it is amazing what is happening here.”

Ed Hinkle, a well-known union veteran in this area who had traveled from Dinosaur, Colorado, to be one of the greeters for the event, asked for a translator when the mike was opened. He is an underground electrician and member of UMWA Local 1984. “The company has told you that you could not stand up for your rights,” Hinkle said, addressing his remarks to the half-dozen Co-Op miners who were in the audience. “You said, ‘yes we can.’ The company tells you that you can’t hold out long enough to make a difference. You say, ‘yes we can.’ Our local has supported you from the beginning and we will be there until the end. We are proud of you.”

“This is an ongoing effort and we want people to join us in our continued work to support the miners,” said Alvaro Landa, a leader of the Craig Committee to Support the Co-Op Miners. He explained how people can get involved in the solidarity efforts with the Co-Op strike.

A number of retired UMWA miners came to the event and made sure to visit the table of materials the Co-Op miners had set up in the back of the hall. Paul Cruz, a retired miner and railroad worker from Oak Creek, told some of the Co-Op miners about the mining and union tradition in his family. Cruz came to the event to deliver his donation despite an illness.

In addition to miners from UMWA mines and some not organized yet, workers from the local Tri-State power plant and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers took part in the rally.

The event was chaired by Isidro Quezada, a miner at the Trapper mine and a member of the Brotherhood of Operating Engineers Local 9. He called attention to the Craig Committee to Support the Co-Op Miners that organized the dinner and dance and thanked the volunteers who cooked the meal and the five area restaurants and businesses who donated food. The program flyer also thanked the DJ, “Barrio Latino” from Hayden, who donated the music and sound for the event. After the rally, tables were cleared and once the dancing started, the floor remained busy until midnight.

During the early part of the dinner, the support committee had organized interviews with TV Channel 27 and the Craig Daily Press. The translation was provided by Cecilia Lee, a 13-year copper miner at Phelps Dodge in Arizona who currently works in a health-care facility in Craig. Under the title of “Laboring for the good of all,” an editorial in the Craig Daily Press helped build the meeting saying “we are proud of the support local residents have shown for the Co-Op miners.”

“I am very pleased with the response and the numbers we got,” Isidro Quezada said in an interview. “The combination of people who came together, both native-born and immigrant, the different nationalities, labor and religious leaders, and folks without much means who normally don’t come out to events similar to this one who came out to support these miners and met each other too. With monies still coming in, we raised over $2,000.”

All participants in the event signed a three-foot by five-foot banner that read: “Craig, Colorado, supports the Co-Op miners” both in English and Spanish for the miners to take back to their picket line.

But not everyone supported the effort. This reporter was shown a flyer from the white supremacist “National Alliance,” which was placed on the lawns of some residents, including a longtime resident of Craig of Mexican descent, on the day of the well-publicized event for the Co-Op miners. The flyer called on “white people” to fight back from becoming a minority and it blamed immigrants for many of society’s ills. The event took place without any incidents nor harassment of any sort.

UMWA Local 1799 invited the miners to attend their meeting in Craig the following day. “We had a good discussion with the retired Empire miners at their local union meeting,” said Gonzalo Salazar. “This is not a local with lots of resources and they decided to give us $500 on top of the contributions they have made before. We had a discussion about our upcoming rally in Huntington on February 7 after they read a letter from District 22 that called for every union local to have members present. A number of miners said they would go,” Salazar reported.

“This was a good trip,” he added. “We met people and local presidents from the UMWA, miners from Twenty-Mile mine who were at the event along with miners from Trapper, Seneca, and Deserado. There is obvious support for our fight here.”

The Co-Op miners had a meeting with the local solidarity committee before they left. They discussed plans for a local car caravan to the February 7 solidarity rally in Huntington and enlisted volunteers to help with that event.
 
 
Related articles:
Feb. 7 in Utah: day of solidarity with strike

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