The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 43           November 23, 2004  
Utah miners and their supporters
press labor board to set union vote
(front page)
SALT LAKE CITY—“We, the 50 members of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Washington Chapter, urge you not to allow any members of the Kingston family to participate in this union election,” wrote the Washington State labor group in a recent letter to B. Allan Benson, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Denver, Colorado.

This is one of the many letters to the labor board by supporters of the 13-month-long struggle by coal miners at the Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah, to win representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The Kingstons are the owners of the mine. The miners and their backers are pressing the NLRB to set a date for a union election at Co-Op and to back the UMWA demand that no Kingston family members or supervisory personnel be allowed to vote.

The 75 miners at Co-Op were fired Sept. 22, 2003, for trying to organize with the UMWA and fighting for livable wages and safe working conditions. They turned the lockout into a strike and picketed the mine, operated by C.W. Mining, for months. After a strike that last nearly 10 months and growing solidarity from the labor movement in the United States and beyond, the NLRB upheld the UMWA charge that the workers had been fired illegally. The labor board ordered the company to reinstate all strikers who wanted to return to work.

After a large majority of the workers signed a petition asking for representation by the UMWA, the NLRB also ruled that a union election should be held at Co-Op. The board held hearings in Price, Utah, in July of this year on who should be eligible to vote in this election. At this hearing, the lawyer representing the Co-Op miners and the UMWA asked that no Kingston family member employed by C.W. Mining be allowed to vote in this election because their loyalty is with the bosses. The bosses argued that up to 100 people, who are members of the so-called International Association of United Workers Union (IAUWU), most of whom are Kingston family members or relatives, should be allowed to vote. The miners say the IAUWU is a company outfit that has never represented them.

Four months later, the NLRB has not set a date or resolved the question of who can vote. The miners say that evidence continues to mount that the IAUWU is a Kingston-controlled operation.

On November 4, for example, a hearing was held in Salt Lake City involving polygamist John Daniel Kingston—a prominent member of the capitalist family that owns the mine—and one of his 14 wives, Heidi Mattingly Foster. The two face allegations of physical abuse and neglect of their 11 children.

The purpose of the hearing, held at Matheson Courthouse, was to review child support obligations and visitation rights for John Daniel Kingston. At a previous court hearing, the children were ordered separated from Foster because of the abuse allegations.

Co-Op miners who support the UMWA traveled to Salt Lake City on November 4. “We came here today to let people know of our fight for a union against the Kingstons, so that everybody is aware of the kind of people we are dealing with,” UMWA supporter Celso Panduro said in an interview.

As the miners arrived outside the hearing they reported seeing Kingston family members with picket signs in front of the courtroom building supporting Foster and John Daniel Kingston.

According to the Co-Op miners, several of those holding up the signs are employed by C.W. Mining in Huntington.

The miners also reported seeing Nevin Pratt, the so-called international vice-president of the IAUWU. Heidi Mattingly Foster is the daughter of Ron and Vicki Mattingly, also “international officers” of the IAUWU. This company union has only one local—the one at the Huntington mine—but tries to paint a fašade of a legitimate trade union through its structures that include “international” tops, the miners said.

The miners were interviewed by local television stations and the Salt Lake Tribune. “The NLRB ordered that a union election take place,” Co-Op miner Bill Estrada told reporters. “It is four months later and we have heard nothing from the NLRB. The fact that officers of the company union and Kingston family members who work at the mine are at this court hearing supporting one of the owners of the mine is why we demand a union election and that no Kingston family member be allowed to vote.”

The IAUWU has also filed, along with the Co-Op mine bosses, a lawsuit in federal court in Utah against the UMWA, 17 of the Co-Op miners, many unions and other groups that have supported the organizing struggle, and numerous newspapers—including the Militant, Salt Lake Tribune, and Deseret Morning News—that have reported on the labor struggle. The suit charges the more than 120 defendants with defamation and unlawful labor practices. Miners say this is a harassment lawsuit aimed at diverting the miners from their fight to win UMWA representation.

At a hearing for Heidi Mattingly Foster on November 3, Judge Andrew Valdez of the Third District Juvenile Court described to the court concerns for his own safety. The Deseret Morning News had reported a man had been spotted at 3:00 a.m. on October 28 installing video surveillance equipment in a courthouse parking lot. The license plate of the individual was traced to someone from Huntington, Utah, where the Co-Op mine is located, the Salt Lake daily reported.

The Co-Op miners attending the hearing said that during their strike the Kingstons regularly videotaped the picket line. “The bosses would come out with their camcorders and video the picket line when visitors would come to support us,” one of the miners reported. “They were trying to intimidate us and our supporters. But this did not back off anyone. In fact, it helped us expand the tremendous support we received that enabled us to win our jobs back.”

Miners said they are asking supporters to continue sending letters to the NLRB demanding it set a date for a union vote and back the UMWA demand that no Kingstons or other managerial personnel at Co-Op be allowed to vote. Letters should be sent to NLRB Region 27, attention B. Allan Benson, director, 600 17th Street, 7th Floor—North Tower, Denver CO 80202-5433. Tel: (303) 844-3551; Fax (303) 844-6249.

Copies of letters and other messages of solidarity and financial donations can be sent to the Co-Op Miners at: UMWA District 22 at 525 East, 100 South, Price UT 84501. Tel: (435) 637-2037; Fax (435) 637-9456.
Related articles:
Second UMWA mine reopens in Utah, hiring on rise throughout U.S. coalfields  
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