Groups rally to support coal miners picket line
The strike against the Co-op coal mine in Emery County recently took on a different look when a number of groups from various parts of the state sent representatives to the picket line to support the workers' agenda.
The Catholic Church along with Mormons for Equality and Social Justice as well as many other groups and organizations spent time on the picket line two Saturdays ago.
George Neckel with Utah Jobs with Justice, in conjunction with Jim Stevenson of United Mine Workers of America, organized picket line help and a rally to show support for the efforts of the miners from the Co-op Mine.
The reason for the strike is in dispute between mine managers and the miners and those who support them.
The miners indicate the strike began when a worker complained to the CW Mining management concerning unsafe conditions in the mine. They claim that two other miners had been disciplined for the same reason the week before.
A walkout started when other workers left the coal production operation in support of the miner making the complaints.
However, the company claims that, on Sept. 14, a CW Mining Company employee purportedly falsified a safety/inspection checklist. When the matter came to management's attention, the employee was given a written warning.
When the individual reportedly refused to acknowledge the written warning, the employee was given a three-day suspension with the intent to discharge for just cause with the right to appeal.
According to the company, another employee became upset and called all employees off shift to protest.
Officials claim that some of the employees refused to participate in the protest. The employees refusing to join the effort were reportedly threatened by the workers who were protesting and the company called the Emery County Sheriff's Office to keep order.
The employees were then asked to return to work or go home, according to the company. The only individual fired was the one who reportedly falsified the safety/inspection checklist.
Miners claim they were all fired. But the company maintains the miners quit because they did not come back to work.
Immediately after the disruption, the miners turned to the United Mine Workers of America for support. The miners also received assistance from other labor unions. On Dec. 13, a bus carrying supporters and food donations arrived at the Huntington Canyon road into Bear Canyon.
Mike Dalpiaz, representative from UMWA's national office, was on hand to answer questions and encourage picketers.
At 2 p.m., most people left the picket line and reassembled at Canyon View Junior High for a rally.
Roy Fernandez and Dalpiaz from the UMWA along with Francisco Picado representing the Co-Op miners began the rally.
"Our international president, Cecil Roberts sends his regards and best wishes," noted Dalpiaz. "This began three months ago. These miners asked the UMWA to help. We stood up then, we stand up now and will continue to stand up until these miners get what they deserve."
Dalpiaz said the mine is more than 50 years old and workers have encouraged the owners to improve the conditions, but that nothing has happened.
"We have a staff of organizers who will work continuously until this matter is settled," stated Dalpiaz. "These miners have generated a lot of support from not only the other coal miners, but many labor unions around the country. Some even from outside of the United States."
The National Labor Relations Board is reviewing the situation and the deliberation process had been moved from Denver, Colo., to Washington, D.C., explained Dalpiaz. The union expects to receive some word from the NLRB very soon.
Other speakers voiced support for the miners, reading letters from other groups and offering words of encouragement.
Pam Juliano, a representative from the United Way in Price, informed the miners about how to access available programs.
The company denies the claims of abusing of workers and ignoring safety violations. Officials claim the policies and procedures in the mine are very clear.
In a letter to the Sun Advocate in October, mine personnel manager Charles Reynolds stated the "... company endeavors to maintain a safe workplace" and "...an employee may be disciplined for breaking safety rules, but never for reporting unsafe conditions or refusing to work in them."
Reynolds indicated that facility is regularly inspected by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration.