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   January 24, 2007  

Introduction to Record of the Militant Fighting Fund

The Militant is posting on our web site the central items from the record of an international campaign by our supporters to defend the paper from a retaliatory lawsuit filed by C.W. Mining Company, owner of the Co-Op Mine in Huntington, Utah, and its allied company union, the International Association of United Workers Union (IAUWU).

The record as a whole, prepared by Paul Mailhot, was donated by the Militant to the Anchor Foundation, which has placed it at the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison. Mailhot, a former labor editor of the Militant, was a coal miner at the Andalex GenWal mine near Huntington, Utah, when the harassment lawsuit was filed. He quit his job in order to help organize the Militant Fighting Fund from Salt Lake City.

C.W. Mining and the IAUWU launched their lawsuit in September 2004, one year after miners at Co-Op began a struggle for safety, better pay, dignity on the job, and representation by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). That organizing drive included a hard-fought, 10-month strike by 75 coal miners, mostly immigrant workers from Mexico, in response to the company’s firing of union backers in the mine. As the material in this collection amply demonstrates, from the opening days of the strike the Militant was the main voice of the miners’ cause, presenting the facts, week in and week out, and rallying support for the struggle across North America and around the world.

The coal operator’s aim in filing the lawsuit was to thwart the miners’ determination to win a union of their choice and fight for better working conditions, as well as to deal blows to all those who had begun speaking out and organizing in solidarity with the Co-Op miners. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. It named more than 100 defendants, including 16 leaders of the unionization drive at Co-Op, the UMWA and its international officers, the Salt Lake City diocese of the Catholic Church, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Militant, which the coal bosses’ complaint falsely described as “a newspaper owned and/or controlled by the Socialist Workers Party, which is responsible for its content.” Other newspapers were also targeted—including Utah’s largest-circulation dailies, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News, and the newspaper of Salt Lake’s Catholic diocese, the Intermountain Catholic—as well as a number of individuals, organizations, and trade unions supporting the Co-Op miners.

As C.W. Mining’s campaign against the organizing drive and its supporters developed over nearly two years, the company, through its court case, concentrated more and more of its fire against the Co-Op miners, the UMWA, and the Militant. Its central charge was that miners who spoke out publicly about their fight for unionization and dignity, as well as anyone who supported them or reported what they said, were guilty of defaming the company. Defendants were also charged with a litany of other alleged offenses.

The Militant and the Socialist Workers Party retained Salt Lake City attorneys Randy Dryer and Michael Petrogeorge of the Parsons, Behle and Latimer firm to represent them in the lawsuit. The Socialist Workers Party’s general counsel Michael Krinsky, of the firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman in New York, collaborated throughout the case with the Utah attorneys. Although the SWP and several other defendants were dropped by C.W. Mining and the IAUWU from their second amended complaint filed in July 2005, the company could have asked the court at any time to reinstate any of these initial defendants.

The Militant Fighting Fund was organized by the Militant to raise funds for the paper to pay attorneys and court expenses and to finance the paper’s efforts to publicize and explain the facts in the case. This enabled the Militant to continue its labor coverage and socialist editorial policy undeterred, including remaining a consistent voice of the Co-Op miners’ battle. Spurred by this struggle and by the growing political weight in the U.S. working class of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, the Militant in June 2005 published its first issue as a bilingual newspaper, which is now produced in English and Spanish each week.

The Militant Fighting Fund was based in Salt Lake City where C.W. Mining’s suit was filed and where the court case unfolded. The Fighting Fund won broad endorsement and financial support from across the United States and internationally to beat back this assault on labor rights and freedom of the press.

The materials included here on the web site—and in the full record at the Wisconsin State Historical Society—tell the story of the victorious effort to turn back the company’s assault in the courts, as part of the broader struggle by the Co-Op miners to win union recognition. It was a fight with big stakes for the organization of other coal mines throughout the western United States. “As a result of the Co-Op miners’ struggle, the organization of Western coal has begun,” explained the lead article, “Their Transformation and Ours,” in issue no. 12 of the Marxist magazine New International, published in early 2005 as the fight was well into its second full year. “It will advance, however, only as cadres of that fight and those influenced by them actively reach out to other mines and miners—union and nonunion—to strengthen the UMWA in Utah and also in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and elsewhere in the West.”

How that fight by the Co-Op miners unfolded, and the counterblows by the employers both on the ground and in the courts, is described in this archive through articles from pages of the Militant and of daily and weekly newspapers in Utah; the United Mine Workers Journal; accounts of public meetings of workers and others across North America at which leading militants in the Co-Op battle explained the stakes and drew lessons for ongoing labor resistance; brochures and lists of endorsers produced by the Militant Fighting Fund, including its wrap-up financial report; documents from hearings of the National Labor Relations Board and from the proceedings before the Federal District Court in Salt Lake City; and more.

Listed at the opening of the table of contents of the entire record of the Militant Fighting Fund, also posted here, are five items summarizing the place of the Co-Op organizing drive in the class struggle today, the significance of that battle for the labor movement, and the successful campaign that helped defeat the coal bosses’ attempt to use the courts against workers in struggle. These items, all of which are posted on the Militant web site, are:

In addition, the final published list of Militant Fighting Fund endorsers is posted here.

The Wisconsin State Historical Society, which now houses the entire Militant Fighting Fund record, also has the archives of numerous others important labor defense and civil liberties campaigns going back to the Civil Rights Defense Committee (CRDC) at the opening of World War II. The CRDC campaigned on behalf of more than two dozen leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Minneapolis Teamsters union (by then Local 544-CIO) who were framed up in December 1941 for “conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government”; eighteen were convicted and sentenced to up to eighteen months in federal prison.

Among other such collections at the State Historical Society are the records of the Kutcher Civil Rights Committee, formed in 1948, which successfully fought the dismissal of legless World War II veteran James Kutcher from his federal job because of his membership in the SWP; the Socialist Workers Party’s victorious fifteen-year battle against FBI and other federal government spying and harassment; immigration fights such as the Héctor Marroquín Defense Committee and Róger Calero Defense Committee, which successfully fought government efforts in 2002-2003 to deport Calero, a Militant reporter; the Mark Curtis Defense Committee, which supported the 1986-96 legal defense of a framed-up packinghouse worker and socialist Mark Curtis; and numerous others.

Selected Items from the Record of the Militant Fighting Fund.

Table of Contents to Militant Fighting Fund Record.




"Defeat of Utah coal boss suit a gain for labor, working class," by Argiris Malapanis, Militant, August 7, 2006.


Excerpt from "Their Transformation and Ours," New International no. 12, February 2005.


Introduction by Jack Barnes to second edition of Teamster Rebellion, December 2003


"Defeating the Bosses' Counterassault at C.W. Mining," by Alyson Kennedy, June 15, 2006.


"We won battle at Co-Op mine due to strength of our fight and solidarity," by Norton Sandler, Militant, June 5, 2006.


Final Financial Accounting of Militant Fighting Fund.


Final published Militant Fighting Fund endorsers' list.

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