|Picketers try to bring attention to their plight as Manuel Lopez, Danielle Acuna, Esmerlda Acuna, Juan Salazar, Apolonoi Acosta and Gonzalo Salazar spend six hour shifts on the picket line.|
The striking Co-op Miners have set up a picket line at the bottom of the Bear Canyon road. At the top of the road the CW Mining Company mines coal, business as usual with reduced production. The miners are in their eighth week of picketing the mine. The workers are accusing the mine of unfair labor practices. The miners are listing low wages, unsafe conditions, intimidation by supervisors, no health insurance and other grievances as the reason for their continued presence on the picket line.
These workers are handicapped by a language barrier and the workers want to make their plight known. Jim Stevenson of the United Mine Workers has been instrumental in giving these miners hope in their quest for what they call, "respect and dignity."
Stevenson said they have filed charges against the CW Mining Company with the National Labor Relations Board. The company was asked if they would work to mediate the problems at the mine and the company has refused.. These workers are protected from coercion and intimidation whether they belong to a union or not, stressed Stevenson. When the miners tried to return to work the next day after the problems with the one fired worker the company had a list of miners they would let through to return to work and only four or five miners were named on the list and the others were fired, according to Stevenson.
Stevenson reported that workers claimed they were forced to operate unsafe equipment under unsafe conditions including unstable roof conditions.
Stevenson also reported that the UMWA, some of the striking miners, AFL-CIO support group and other citizens groups had been to a Kingston company office building in Salt Lake and picketed there trying to raise awareness of the plight of the miners. Stevenson said they are also trying to make customers of the Kingston polygamous clan owned businesses aware of the unfair working conditions at the businesses, including the Emery County mine. "We want the customers back east to know that they are burning coal mined with slave labor," said Stevenson.
"These workers lived in fear, if they were hurt on the job; they couldn't collect workmens compensation because they were expected to be back on the job or they would lose their jobs even if they were injured. This mine operates like the companies did in the early days of the organizing of the union. We have had a trailer donated by pensioners for the striking miners to use. One of the Co-op supervisors stopped the other day and talked to the picketers and told them they were all going to be arrested and that they couldn't have that trailer there. We checked with the state before putting the trailer there and have a permit to keep it there. This Kingston group is very well insulated in the state. They have been under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service in the past and we are investigating their way of doing business.
"We tried to work with these people and mediate and tried to resolve these issues. Their company union is illegal and it's phony and operated by the management and none of the workers belong to it. They have taken advantage of these immigrant workers. One immigrant worker has worked there for 22 years and was only making $7 per hour, another has been there for 14 years and was making $6.80 an hour. Only one of the miners has returned to work. This involves 74 miners and there are people willing to testify as to what these miners went through. These immigrant workers have been exploited and we are taking a stand against the Kingston empire. These workers deserve fair treatment and dignity and respect. That's why they are standing on the pickets.
"A decision will be made in mid-November by the National Board of Labor Relations as to whether or not the CW Mining Company has been involved in unfair labor practices. We believe we have a solid case. We want these workers back to work and these issues resolved. They are entitled to reinstatement and back wages if the board rules in their favor. The UMWA is here to assist the workers in asserting their rights. If they want to bargain a contract with the UMWA or another union of their choice, that is their right. I believe organized labor is starting to come back; 1 percent of the population in this country controls 99 percent of the wealth.
"In non-union mines just the threat of a union makes for better working conditions for the miners, better pay and training. A lot of the old union mines were mined out and Deer Creek is the only UMWA mine left in this area," said Stevenson.