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Utah miners reach out to
build March 12 union rally
Co-Op miner Juan Salazar, with Bill Estrada, another Co-Op miner, translating on right of podium, speaking March 6 to PACE union conference in Reno, Nevada.
BY PAT MILLER
AND GUILLERMO ESQUIVEL
PRICE, UtahOur fight for representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is about respect and dignity, said Juan Salazar, a coal miner at the Co-Op mine near Huntington, Utah. He was addressing the Region XI conference of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy (PACE) workers union. The 200 delegates met March 6 in Reno, Nevada.
We want a better future not just for ourselves and our families but also for other miners, Salazar continued. Thanks to your ongoing support we have stayed united for a year and a half. If we win, other miners win too.
Co-Op miners José Contreras and Bill Estrada also addressed the gathering. Kyle Wulle, a PACE delegate from Salt Lake City, Utah, who has been an active supporter of the union-organizing fight in Huntington, introduced the miners.
The same day, another group of Co-Op miners addressed the monthly meeting of UMWA Local 1385 in Craig, Colorado. The local organizes 100 surface coal miners at the Seneca mine near Hayden, Colorado.
At these meetings and other activities, the Co-Op miners invited unionists and all supporters of their fight for a union to help build and take part in a solidarity rally scheduled for March 12 at the UMWA hall in Price, Utah.
The delegates at the PACE meeting in Nevada, who came from many western states, gave the miners a standing ovation. PACE locals in Utah and Idaho have made generous financial donations to the Co-Op miners throughout their fight. In Reno, PACE members donated another $1,300 by passing the hat. The miners set up a table with information and talked to many PACE members from California, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, and Utah soliciting support for their struggle.
We wanted to tell PACE members, who have been some of our most consistent backers, that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is still stalling on deciding to count the votes of pro-UMWA miners in the union representation election and has also not ruled yet on the companys illegal firing of UMWA supporters at the mine, said Bill Estrada.
One week before the Dec. 17, 2004, union representation election, the bosses fired most Co-Op miners who support the union on the pretext the workers did not provide proof of their eligibility to work in the United States. Many of these miners have explained to the press the company had them working in the mine for low wages and in unsafe working conditions for years with the same documentation as when they were hired. Only when the union election was one week away did the company charge nearly all UMWA supporters with being undocumented.
Reaching out throughout West
The trip by Co-Op miners to the PACE conference in Reno was part of stepped-up activity by the miners to reach out to working people in Utah and throughout the western United States with news about their fight and appeals for solidarity.
Four Co-Op miners traveled to Craig, Colorado, March 6 to speak to the monthly meeting of UMWA Local 1385. The fourRicardo Chávez, Abel Olivas, Alyson Kennedy, and Francisco Carrillowere warmly received by the Colorado miners. The Co-Op miners invited everyone to the March 12 benefit and solidarity rally in Price.
Local 1385 has supported the Co-Op miners fight for dignity on the job and a union from the beginning. The local participated in a solidarity rally for the miners in Craig in January 2004, has contributed money, and its members have walked the picket line in Huntington during the 10-month strike and made announcements to the local meetings about Co-Op solidarity events. In January of this year Local 1385 wrote a letter to the NLRB urging it to act in favor of the Co-Op miners and sent $300 to the fight.
Peabody Coal Co. has announced it would be shutting down the Seneca mine later this year. Seneca miners see this as a union-busting move by Peabody, aimed at shifting and expanding production in nonunion operations.
We wont give up
Many of the miners in Colorado wanted to know how we have kept up the fight for so long, and are we afraid of losing, Chávez told the Militant. We had a good discussion about this and let them know their solidarity and that of many other working people makes it possible to continue fighting. We also told the miners weve gone beyond the point of being afraid of losing. If we lose, we lose fighting. We will not give up.
Some of the Seneca workers wanted to know how the Co-Op miners responded to the company use of immigration threats to fire pro-UMWA miners before the union elections. The miners said they have the same documents they had when they were hired. A number had worked with these documents for many years. They said they dont see this as an immigration question but a union question.
Before, during, and after the meeting, UMWA members came by the Co-Op miners information table set up at the back of the room to talk to us, pick up more information, buy raffle tickets for the March 12 solidarity event, and make contributions, Co-Op miner Alyson Kennedy told the Militant. By the end of the meeting, there was $165 in the contribution bucket.
In another act of solidarity in the Craig area, Pastor Melinda Bobo, who received information on the Co-Op miners fight, explained the struggle to her congregation at St. Marks Episcopal Church and organized a collection. The congregation responded by contributing $195. Several churchgoers are coal miners or family members of miners.
Support activities expand in Utah
Co-Op miners and supporters have also been expanding their solidarity efforts in this area. The first week of March the miners put up an information table at BKs, the local convenience store and gas station at the entrance of Huntington, Utah. Co-Op miners picked this spot because many coal miners going to and coming from work stop at the store.
Half a dozen Co-Op miners staffed the table for a few hours over two days last week giving out flyers about the March 12 solidarity rally and asking for support. Passersby dropped $250, much of it from miners and their families, into the donations bucket.
Remember me? said one woman as she came up to the table to make a contribution. I joined you on the picket line when you were in front of the mine last year. I sure hope you win, you certainly deserve to. The woman told the miners she was proud her son chose as his school project putting together a scrapbook of articles about their fight.
A student from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who is doing a documentary about the Co-Op miners fight, filmed the tabling at BKs. The miners said the filming helped. It made the information table more prominent. People came over and wanted to know what all the excitement was about, a miner said.
The Co-Op miners for the first time spoke about their struggle to UMWA Local 1261 members at the Consolidation Coal Co. mine south of Huntington in early March. This mine has recently gone back into production. About 100 UMWA members are working there now. It is one of two UMWA-organized mines in the Price area.
The Co-Op miners said their immediate priority the next few days is building the March 12 solidarity event at the UMWA hall in Price. The rally starts at noon. The event includes a Mexican meal and the drawing for a fund-raising raffle. Those who cant make the event, the miners said, are encouraged to send messages of support and financial contributions to: Co-Op Miners c/o UMWA District 22, 525 East 100 South, Price, UT 84501; Tel: (435) 637-2037; Fax: (435) 637-9456.
Build March 12 miners rally