The miners, overwhelmingly immigrants from Mexico, were locked out by the bosses in 2003, after resisting dangerous conditions, demanding better wages and dignity, and protesting harassment and firings of union supporters. The workers transformed the lockout into a strike, which lasted nearly 10 months, during which they won widespread solidarity in the United States and abroad. As a result they won reinstatement and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) set a union representation election. In December 2004, on the eve of that vote, the company fired dozens of miners on the pretext they did not have proper legal documents. At the same time, the mine bosses launched their lawsuit.
The stakes in this case have become clearer recently as millions of immigrant workers and their supporters have demonstrated for legalization. The right of workers to speak out about job conditions, organize for a union, and protest for demands like amnesty without risking their jobs or deportation have been at the heart of the struggle of these miners and of the fight to defeat the C.W. Mining suit.
Because of the increasingly protracted character of the case, the Militant Fighting Fund, which has helped the Militant raise the funds to defend itself and publicized the case of all defendants, has renamed itself the Militant Defense Fund.
The defendants face a variety of charges, including defaming the bosses, conspiracy to defraud the company, and violating federal racketeering and labor laws. The UMWA is providing counsel for the union and the 16 miners.
At a court hearing in February, Judge Dee Benson declined to rule on the motions by the Militant, the 16 miners, and the UMWA to dismiss the case, while he dismissed similar defamation charges against the two main dailies in Utah. The judge raised the possibility of discovery, which would open up the defendants to subpoenas to produce records and lengthy interrogations, draining them of time and resources.
To build support, the Defense Fund has prepared updated literature, including a new fact sheet outlining the stakes in this case for working people. These will be posted soon on the Militants web site, www.themilitant.com.
The Militant Defense Fund has also set a goal of winning 300 new endorsers between now and June 1, coinciding with an effort by Militant supporters to sign up more than 2,000 new readers to the paper (see article in this issue).
Last week, 14 new endorsements came in from Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. These include Graham Cooke, the Aotearoa Branch Secretary of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union; and Jules Lobel, professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, who is also part of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Endorsements and financial contributions can be sent to the Militant Defense Fund, P.O. Box 42896, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Fax: (215) 243-7986; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More dailies grant anonymity to interviewees
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