Co-op Rally Draws Crowd
The striking Co-op miners received support from many unions around the state, as well as the nation at a recent solidarity rally. The Catholic Church and Mormons for Equality and Social Justice as well as many other groups and organizations spent some time on the picket line on Dec. 13. George Neckel with Utah Jobs with Justice, in conjunction with Jim Stevenson of United Mine Workers of America, organized picket line help and a rally that included a homemade Mexican lunch to show support for the efforts of the miners from the Co-op Mine.
Miners from the Co-op, mostly Mexican immigrants, have been out on strike for three months. The strike began when a worker complained to the CW Mining management concerning unsafe conditions in the mine and union activity.Two other miners had been disciplined for the same reasons the week before. A walkout began when other workers walked out in support of the miner making the complaints.
The miners have turned to the UMWA for support in organizing the miners. Many other labor unions have come to support the actions of the miners during this strike. At noon on Dec. 13, a bus carrying picket help, supporters and food donations arrived at the Huntington Canyon road into Bear Canyon. They all walked the picket line, sang songs and generally vowed their support to help the Mexican miners.
Mike Dalpiaz, representative from UMWA's national office, was on hand to answer questions and encourage the picketers. At one point during the day, several of the striking miners recognized representatives from the company and requested that Dalpiaz ask them to leave.
At 2 p.m., most left the picket line and reassembled at Canyon View Junior High School for a rally and homemade Mexican lunch. Roy Fernandez and Dalpiaz, from UMWA, along with Francisco Picado representing the Co-Op miners, began the rally.
Dalpiaz said, "Our international president, Cecil Roberts sends his regards and best wishes. This began three months ago. These miners work for one of the most brutal companies around. They asked the UMWA to help. We stood up then, we stand up now and will continue to stand up until these miners get what they deserve.
"Our union is more that 113 years old. Our struggles have always been for better working conditions. The Kingstons are deploying the same tactics now that the organizers saw back then. We didn't allow it then and we won't allow it now.
"This mine has been there for over 50 years. And over those years, miners have tried to encourage the owners to improve the conditions. These 70 miners have the courage to stand up and say they've had enough. Twenty years ago, miners at the Co-op came to us and asked for help. We did then, but the company bought them off and we were told they didn't need us. Today the scenario is opposite. They need us and bless you miners for standing up.
"We have a staff of organizers that will work continuously until this matter is settled. Because of all the organizers and the Co-op miners, we will be victorious. Thank you.
"These miners have generated a lot of support from not only the other coal miners, but many labor unions around the country. Some even from outside of the United States. Thanks to all the unions who are supporting and helping in this struggle. This fight is for human dignity.
"Three months ago in Price, I met all the Co-op miners at the park. I told you then we would support you and beat the Kingston bunch and we will. 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'
"Our entire union knows about this strike and they all support us. We need to stop this ruthless treatment of miners. We're in this thing together and we're going to stand and win this fight.
"At the moment, we are awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board. The decision was supposed to come from Denver, but because they did not know how to handle it, it was moved back to Washington DC. There are some good signs coming from Washington. So stay together and thank you all." he said.
When Dalpiaz was finished, Roy Fernandez, local union organizer read a letter of support and solidarity from Christ Church, New Zealand miners that had been received. He then made introductions of other union representatives in attendance at the rally.
Ed Armor of Salt Lake City pipefitters was next to speak. "We are proud to be here today. I am a construction worker so I know the value of work. Our union will not rest until you have the justice and dignity you deserve. This is a tough battle and we are losing sleep with you. Emery and Carbon counties should remember the history that has come from the bargaining tables in this area. If you want to stay in an area, you have to have decent jobs for your families. Your fight is our fight."
A UMWA retiree from Huntington was next to speak. Ernie Lopez said, "I am very pleased to be here, this is a just cause. If we can help your families in any way, let us know. The Catholic Mission here is willing to help. Susan Austin is the administrator."
Tony Salazar, another retiree said, "I am sorry that the Kingston miners haven't organized sooner, they could be enjoying the job security that the UMWA has given its miners. Back in 1949, we were fighting the Kingston mines then too. Good luck, I hope you win."
Michael Lester from the AFL-CIO said, "Everybody had a right to earn a liveable wage. We will not give up."
Pam Juliano, a representative from the United Way in Price told the miners of her family's history with the UMWA. She also informed them of the programs available and how to utilize them.
Two representatives from PACE were next. Julie Hollzer stated, "We're here to support you for the long run." Buddy Beck told the miners, "We are to do everything we can to help you win this fight. It is time to start having victory after victory and change the face of the US labor movement."
Neckel, of Utah Jobs with Justice said, "It is a great honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Co-op miners. This will be written down in the labor history books. It will end in victory."
Fernandez then mentioned the many people who have been involved in the action since the beginning. He recognized the Intermountain Catholic Newspaper for their continued coverage of the truth. He then read a letter of support from a Lawrence Oliver, a Navajo coal miner.
Jesus Salazar, a Co-Op miner was next to address the group. "I am proud to celebrate the 86 days of struggle and am determined to continue. We're coal miners and immigrant workers, that's why the company thought they could get away with this treatment. They never thought we would stand up for ourselves. This is one of their most lucrative operations and they are losing thousands each day. All employees need to be watchful. Each day we receive more support, starting with the UMWA, Cecil Roberts and Mike Dalpiaz.
"Many of the people here today we have met since this started. I want to thank all the organizations who support us in our struggle. The owners know how much support we are receiving from the Catholic Church and the other union organizations across the state, the country and some out of the country.
"Thanks to everyone who has stood by us, and remember 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'"