The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 42           December 1, 2003  
Coal miners in Utah
stand firm on picket line
(front page)
HUNTINGTON, Utah—A dozen coal miners picketed CW Mining’s Co-Op mine here November 11 as part of their fight to organize a union there.

The workers chanted in the face of Mark Reynolds, the brother of CW Mining manager Charles Reynolds, as he repeatedly demanded that they leave.

When Reynolds predicted that the United Mine Workers (UMWA) would abandon the struggle, one woman miner pointed emphatically at a picket sign reading, “We have the support of the UMWA.”

Aquí estamos y aquí nos quedamos, y si nos sacan nos regresamos” (We are here and we are staying, and if they throw us out, we will return) the miners, mostly from Mexico, chanted in Spanish.

The workers chanted in the face of Mark Reynolds, the brother of C.W. Mining manager Charles Reynolds, as he repeatedly demanded that they leave. When Reynolds predicted that the United Mine Workers (UMWA) would abandon the struggle, one woman miner pointed emphatically at a picket sign reading, “We have the support of the UMWA.”

The Co-Op miners on the picket line said that solid backing from the UMWA, other working people and unionists, and a number of students and others in the region has picked up their spirits. They are now organizing to extend solidarity and up the pressure on the company to give them their jobs back and recognize the UMWA as their union.

In the latest development, miner William Estrada will join UMWA international representative Roy Hernandez at a meeting of the Board of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in Knoxville, Tennessee. The unionists plan to call on the authority to halt any plans to purchase CW Mining coal until the dispute is resolved. Estrada explained that this is part of a broader UMWA strategy to “pressure the power plants, many of which are organized by the Steelworkers Union, to stop purchasing coal from TVA if the company does not cease doing business with CW Mining.”

In another development, supporters of the Co-Op struggle in Salt Lake City have established a solidarity committee to publicize the fight and gather donations of funds and food for the miners and their families.

On this particular morning—typically cold and foggy—the workers’ mood was upbeat and resilient. Earlier, upwards of 25 miners had cleaned up their picket trailer and painted signs with slogans that included, “We demand dignity and respect from the Kingstons,” and “Co-Op miners on strike, y qué?”—roughly translated as “you got a problem with that?” C.W. Mining is owned by the Kingston family.

Reynolds’s response to the chants was to get on his cell phone to the Sheriff’s Department and demand that the Emery County cop come down and witness the scene. Making sure that the miners could hear, he said that he would cite the incident in a “lawsuit against the Mine Workers union.”

Once he arrived the cop lent a deaf ear to the miner’s description of Reynolds’s provocative behavior, while taking pictures of the picket signs. He then asked whether the pickets were “aware that the UMWA no longer supports your deal here.”

“We told him we appreciated his concern but that he was mistaken,” said Julio Salas, who drives a mine buggy and is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico.

As the scene played out, Salas told Militant reporters how the fight had unfolded prior to C.W. Mining locking out the miners back on September 22. “The company had been trying to suspend a number of us to stop our efforts to defend our rights and to form a union,” said Salas. “Leading up to that Monday they had interrogated people about our meetings, had tried to disrupt a meeting we organized outside the mine, and had threatened us with all kinds of things—including setting the immigration police on us.”

The next step was the suspension of a worker named Oscar Sosa, said Salas, after they had “tried to suspend me the previous Friday. In both cases we got the company to either take us back or wipe out the suspension altogether.

“On the 22nd all the workers went to management. We tried to have a discussion with them to resolve what seemed to be clearly an attempt to fire William Estrada, a maintenance worker. We also had all kinds of other issues to discuss, including safety questions in the mine.

“But they opted for calling the Sheriff’s Department,” said Salas. “This guy was one of the ones who was there,” he added, glancing at the Emery County deputy. “They basically threw us out of the mine after the cops told the company they would not have room to lock us all up if they arrested us.”

The cops escorted the workers off the company property. “Rumor has it that many of the cops hang out together with some of the Kingston bosses at the local Karate club in Huntington,” said Salas.

In a statement released by the miners’ outreach committee November 12, Jesús Salazar, a leader of the struggle, said, “We are approaching the ninth week of our labor dispute and we are determined and standing strong with the solidarity from labor and community organizations.”

With the UMWA’s assistance, the miners have turned the lockout into an Unfair Labor Practice Strike, and have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to that effect. They are also seeking a ruling against the company union.

“The company is falsely claiming that the officers of their union are just leads, and are not our bosses,” said William Estrada November 14. “But over the past week we have been working with the UMWA’s legal department to provide the necessary ammunition to blast that lie out of the water.

“A good number of us have given testimony to the UMWA lawyers and to Mr. Daniel Robles, an NLRB agent, explaining how these supposed leads not only organize production, but suspend us, fire us, write our evaluations, give or take away raises, and in general never lift a finger to give us a hand on the job,” he said.

The union has turned over evaluation slips signed by Estrada’s crew foreman to the NLRB. “He is supposed to be the union president,” Estrada said, “but neither he nor any of the ‘union officers’ have ever explained a single thing about a union to any worker. There isn’t a single case where this ‘union’ has ever defended a worker from company attacks. If the NLRB does not rule against the company, it will be saying more about the role of that government agency than about the legal standing of the company union.”  
Step forward in solidarity work
The work to advance solidarity with the fight has taken a step forward over the past week, according to Francisco Picado, an underground coal miner from UMWA Local 1984 at the Deserado mine in Colorado.

“Supporters of the miners in Salt Lake City have decided to form a Co-Op Miners Solidarity Committee to coordinate their efforts to raise funds, build the miners’ food bank, and organize a publicity campaign against the Kingston Clan,” he said.

“The supporters have decided to advertise on KRCL Radio for donations to the food bank. Some building trades workers plan to make a truck available to bring the donations down to Huntington.”

The solidarity committee will be having its first meeting on the evening of November 17 at the Communication Workers of America building at 396 E. Edison, Salt Lake City.

“In addition,” said Picado, “four Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers union locals in Salt Lake City, which have already raised close to $2,000, are planning to come to the picket line on November 22 with food for Thanksgiving.

“Co-Op miners already have speaking dates in Gallup, New Mexico, organized by Sandy Jesus, president of the UMWA local at the McKinley Mine in the Navajo Nation, and there are other engagements in the works.”

At the November 11 picket line, Larry Huestis, UMWA international representative, told the miners, “We will win this fight by holding together and with solidarity. The miners are standing strong and we are looking forward to decorating Christmas trees at the picket lines if that is what it takes.”

Those wishing to help can make out checks or money orders to Co-Op Miners Relief Fund and send them to 525 So. 1st Street, Price, Utah 84501.

See ‘UMWA Journal’ coverage of Co-Op fight
Related articles:
Solidarity with Utah miners!  
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