Striking Co-op Miners Receive Hope
In a major breakthrough for the United Mine Workers of America organizing battle at the Co-Op mine in Huntington, the UMWA has received a draft settlement from the National Labor Relations Board that orders C.W. Mining Co. to reinstate all of the 75 miners who were illegally fired last September. With most of the Co-Op strikers back to work before mid-July, the chances increase that the UMWA will win the NLRB-mandated union election that will be held sometime in August, workers reported.
On Sept. 22, 2003, 75 coal miners were fired from their jobs at the Co-Op mine, owned by C.W. Mining. They were fired because they had contacted the UMWA about getting a union organized at the mine. The miners were paid between $5.25 and $7.00 an hour with no benefits.
A company union has existed at the mine for many years. All of the officers of this "union" are bosses and are related to the Kingstons, the wealthy family that owns the mine. The strikers report that the settlement agreement from the NLRB clearly states that any type of intimidation or harassment of pro-union miners by the Co-Op management is illegal. The document states that the agreement must be visibly posted at the mine for 60 days.
This is important because this is what led to the wholesale firings last September, workers say. Prior to that date, the miners had been talking to UMWA organizers about how to get a real union organized at the mine. Bosses began harassing and suspending the miners for this activity.
The NLRB made the decision after nine months of the workers being on strike that has kept winning broader support in the labor movement throughout the country. The miners also reported that the draft settlement includes a back pay order, the exact details of which are being negotiated and may be settled in court. The miners have until July 6 to let Co-Op know who is returning to work and they will be back to work on July 12. Beginning July 20 there will be hearings in Price, to determine who is eligible to vote in a union election that will be held sometime in August. The Co-Op miners and their supporters from the labor movement and other organizations. will be meeting on July 6 at 10a.m. at Huntington Park, in Huntington. On that day the miners will be informing the Co-Op mine they will return to work There will be a celebration of this victory at the town hall in Huntington at noon.