Letter to the Editor: Miners rebuttal at the Co-Op mine
This letter is in response to the representative from CW Mining Company who was trying to excuse the unlawful firing of the miners at Co-Op.
From the end of August through September 22 (when the miners were thrown out of the mine) the company has been carrying out an unlawful campaign of harassment, threats, intimidation and disciplinary actions against the miners at Co-Op. This has included threats about deportation, since the great majority of workers are immigrants. It has included direct intimidation in the form of interrogations in the work place (some up to two hours long) and also the increase in disciplinary write-ups for work related issues, which the personnel director admits the company was doing.
When the company got word of a meeting organized by the workers at the Huntington Town Hall they sent four supervisors to disrupt the meeting. The bosses were not able to intervene because the miners changed the venue given the threats made by the company.
The company suspended one union activist after that night and workers elected a leadership committee to meet with the company to get his job back, which they did. A few days later, the company attempted to suspend a worker who had been forced to do fire bossing duties by his supervisor even though he was not certified, which is required by law. This worker stopped production in one section of the mine in order to discuss the problem with management and as a result the worker was not suspended. A few days later the company suspended another union activist because he "forgot to connect a hose on a machine".
Workers got together and went to management to resolve the problem like they had done the week before but the company called the sheriff and told workers to leave the property.
The company claims workers were not fired, but people could not return to the mine. The next day workers were stopped at the gate, with the police present again, and were told that only 10 people who were on a list would be allowed to work and the rest were fired.
We have been forced to endure terrible working conditions to feed our families while the mines owners rake in large profits for the mine by exploiting the Co-Op miners.
The company has forced workers to put on unsafe equipment - equipment that was deemed unsafe by MSHA inspectors.
On the days leading up to their firing, workers had been forced to work in an unsafe area of the mine with only one way in and out risking the workers lives.
Mechanics routinely reported equipment that was unsafe. Mechanics would tag a truck because of needed servicing or had more serious problems such as brakes. Supervisors would simply ignore the tag and operate the equipment.
The outrageously expensive medical insurance is beyond the reach of the great majority of workers, therefore, there is no insurance to speak of.
Mechanics and other workers are charged every paycheck for tools that are kept on company property. The workers pay for the tools they use and have no control over them. The company keeps the keys to the padlocks on their toolboxes.
Given the wages made, the charges for tools are reminiscent of the old 1900's company stores that would steal workers money for basic necessities.
The training the company refers to is another scam. Workers pay hundreds of dollars for MSHA classes most mine operator provide for free. Contractors in town charge a fraction of what workers pay at Co-Op.
For the company to try to justify paying any miner $5.50 an hour only sheds light on their arrogant belief that they have the right to exploit human beings. Base pay for all miners at Co-Op should be enough for us to provide for our families on any given day.
Supplementary pay and bonuses that are tied to production and attendance are only another tool in the company's hand. If a worker refuses to carry out a unsafe work practice they are very likely to lose their bonuses and supplementary pay. Workers are forced to chose every day between their safety and their families' income that week. An injury to one is an injury to all.