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News :: Labor
Utah Miners Struggle for Justice lobby in boston
28 May 2004
Since October 2003, Utah JwJ has been building community support for the 74 workers at the Co-Op mine in Huntington,
Utah Miners Struggle for Justice
Since October 2003, Utah JwJ has been building community support for the 74 workers at the Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah who have been on an unfair labor practice strike. The workers were illegally fired from their jobs after they protested the suspension of a co-worker for union activity and for protesting unsafe job conditions. Co-Op workers, mostly Mexican immigrants, are paid only $5.25-$7/hour while other miners working in the same canyon earn $18. The miners have no health insurance and work in dangerous conditions which have led to countless injuries and an astounding 3 deaths since 1996.

The mine is owned by the wealthy and powerful Kingston clan (also known as “The Order”), which owns about 160 businesses throughout Utah including pawn shops, payday loan outfits, food markets, and a garbage company. In 1979, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recognized the “International Association of United Workers Union” as the sole bargaining agent for the Co-Op mine workers. Since then, this so-called union has been owned, operated, and controlled by the powerful Kingston family. The union holds no meetings and its officers are not elected - they are appointed by and are members of the Kingston clan. Despite a mountain of evidence indicating that the Co-Op miners want representation with the UMWA and that the company union is a farce, the Regional NLRB office declined to rule on the case, keeping the workers in limbo for months while the National Board makes a decision.

The Co-Op miners have gotten support from people across Utah and around the country. Utah JwJ has organized several fundraisers for the miners. In Decem-ber and in February, they organized buses to rally at the mine where they were joined by miners from neigh-boring states. Earlier this year, Utah JwJ organized a delegation of the miners together with labor leaders, elected officials, and religious leaders to visit Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to encourage him to investigate the Kingston clan’s pattern of violating health and safety laws. Shurtleff is now running a financial probe of the clan and hopes to bring an organized-crime-style prosecution against the Kingstons. More recently, 50 people picketed at the East Side Market Food Market, a Kingston-owned store where clan members buy their food with special scrip. Utah JwJ is planning rallies with the workers on Workers’ Memorial Day and on May Day to raise visibility for the miners’ struggle.

Through the collective efforts of Eastern Mass. JwJ and Western Mass. JwJ, Co-Op workers Ana Sanchez and Bill Estrada toured Massachusetts to gain support for their strike. The mine workers told their story to the Mass. AFL-CIO, CWA IUE 201, Greater Boston APWU, Boston Teachers Union, several Central Labor Councils, and Interfaith groups throughout the state. Ana Sanchez also spoke at a women’s lunch about her struggle as a mother, a woman, and a miner. The miners raised an estimated $5,500 for their strike fund as well as a commitment from local people to continue to bring attention to and support their struggle.

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