The Militant (logo)  
   Vol.66/No.38           October 14, 2002  
Salt miners in Cleveland
fight for ‘jobs, respect’
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CLEVELAND--"We’re fighting for our jobs, seniority rights, and respect," Leroy Kinder said about the strike by salt miners here. He spoke to the Militant during a September 21 rally demanding that Mayor Jane Campbell cancel Cleveland’s purchasing of road salt from the Cargill salt mine.

Kinder has worked at the mine for 15 years. He is one of 165 members of Teamsters Local 436 who on May 6 struck Cargill, the giant agricultural products conglomerate. Fifteen salt miners participated in the protest with picket signs at a busy intersection near where Campbell was giving a speech.

The miners have been fighting to oppose the undercutting of seniority in job openings and work shifts, to end the use of subcontractors, and to reverse the flexible work schedule the union agreed to when Cargill bought the mine in 1997.

Since the union made an unconditional offer to return to work in August, the company has called back only 33 of the strikers and terminated the rest. Cargill has kept 83 of the replacement workers hired to break the strike.

On September 9, some 100 miners and their supporters rallied at Cleveland City Hall to defend the union and support a resolution in the city council calling on the mayor to end salt purchases from Cargill until the company rehires the former strikers. The rally was organized by Local 436 members and their spouses.

The city councils of Cleveland and nearby Lakewood and Parma have passed non-binding resolutions in support of the unionists. According to the September 28 Plain Dealer, Campbell wrote to Cargill, saying the company’s "inability to come to a resolution that treats your workers fairly may prohibit the city of Cleveland from purchasing salt from Cargill."

Local 436 has asked the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to boycott all Cargill products, from grain to beef and other foods. The union has also filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Meanwhile, salt miners have expressed determination to continue their fight. James Yeager, a miner with 30 years’ service, said the company has refused to call back union members by seniority. Commenting on the possibility of not returning to work for Cargill, Yeager said, "I may end up going, but I’m not going quietly."

Helen Meyers is the Socialist Workers candidate for Ohio attorney general.  
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