Bishop Visits Miners
Striking Miners Receive Support of Catholic Leader
After seven and a half months the striking Co-op miners are still walking the picket line. Walking the picket line with them on May 4 was Bishop George Niederauer of the Salt Lake Diocese. Bishop Niederauer toured the picket site and spoke to picketers saying, "Thank you for what you do. You are a witness to justice and it's not easy to sacrifice day after day, all day long. I drive two hours to be here, but you sacrifice day after day. You are not alone, you are in my prayers and the prayers of my
people. Your story becomes better and better known. You will remain in our hearts and prayers." Bishop Niederauer blessed the small motorhome set up for the strikers and greeted and blessed picketers at the site.
Bishop Niederauer visited the picket line to show his support of the striking miners who continue to walk the line after seven and one half long months. Bishop Niederauer has spent time in meetings with other Bishops, pleading the cause of the miners. Their story has run in several Catholic magazines nationwide and donations continue to come in for the miners and their families.
Through interpreters miners spoke of their plight to Bishop Niederauer. They told of unsafe working conditions and wages well below other coal mines. The miners said they lacked benefits and were forced to work when they were injured. They told the story of a miner with an injured arm who returned to work too soon and the doctor told him because he returned to work too soon the arm would take much longer to heal. They said sometimes workers had to work a year or two before they were given a raise. Bishop Niederauer offered his sympathies to the workers. The Bishop also offered mass that evening at the Mission San Rafael Catholic church and shared a meal with the miners.
The Mission San Rafael Catholic church has been one of the strongest backers of the strikers. They continue to help the miners with rent, utilities and food costs. Retired miner and president of the parishioners committee, Ernest Lopez has been working with Susan Austin and Father Hope for continued support and aid for the miners. Lopez said the Bishop has been very concerned about the injustice suffered by the miners. Donations have come from many sources including the Utah Food Bank, Utah Jobs for Justice and numerous supporters of the UMWA and people in the mining community. Public radio station KRCL has also made announcements on their station for donations of food. Strikers are also supported by three PACE local unions. Miners are available to speak at union meetings and organizations.
Some of the striking miners also visited Boston where they spoke at the Jobs for Justice organization there. Articles about the miners plight ran in two local newspapers in the Boston area and donations are still coming in from that area. Locals in East Carbon and Rangely, Colo. continue to collect food for the miners.
Striking miner, Alyson Kennedy said support continues to be tremendous even after many months of striking. She mentioned a picket line held over the weekend at a Kingston owned business in Salt Lake where 75 picketers showed up in support of the miners. The strike began in September 2003 when striking miners walked off their jobs in support of a coworker.
Strikers are encouraging businesses not to do business with CW Mining. They are working to ask businesses not to cross the picket line and to support the strikers in their cause.
Striking miner, Juan Salazar said they continue to be positive and will keep on working to win and gain the benefits needed. "We are not going to give up," said Salazar. At the current time the National Labor Relations Board has not ruled on any of the charges against the CW Mining for alleged unfair labor practices.
The case has been sent to the Washington D.C. office and it is presumed a ruling will be forthcoming from them. Similar cases have recently given the strikers hope.
Workers in a factory in Florida have been fighting for a contract and a union for six months and the NLRB recently ruled in the worker's favor.
Conditions there are similar to the miners plight and rulings in favor of workers give them hope.
"We are stronger than ever and will hang on as long as it takes," said Kennedy.