Mine owners sue media
|A C.W. Mining employee videotapes the strikers that were on the line in Huntington Canyon in late March of this year. The mine and the strikers had a number of encounters on the picket line. In some cases, the Emery County Sheriff's Department was called because mine officials claimed that strikers were blocking traffic by standing in the road.|
While workers who were on strike at the C. W. Mining Company last year at this time are busy planning a celebration rally at the United Mine Workers of America Union Hall for this Saturday to commemorate the one year anniversary of their work stoppage, and the National Labor Relations Board continues to work on a decision about who can and cannot vote for union representation at the mine, the owners of the mine have been busy, too.
On Friday, the company's attorneys, F. Mark Hansen and Carl Kingston, filed a suit in The United States District Court for the District of Utah against several news organizations, individuals employed by the mine and several community activists who have spoken out about the strikers and work conditions at the mine.
The headliner in the suit was the United Mine Workers of America, but both the Deseret Morning News, and four of its reporters that covered the situation, as well as the Salt Lake Tribune and eight of its news people were named. The two local papers, the Sun Advocate and the Emery County Progress, were also named in the suit.
The near 80 page filing states that the striking workers cost the C.W. Mining Company nearly a million dollars, and that statements issued by individuals, along with statements made in the press by others who supported them, defamed the owners and the company.
The mine is owned by the well known Kingston family, who purportedly run the mine as an "order" where family members and followers of their religious sect don't work for wages but to build the business and their belief system, which includes a polygamous lifestyle. However, many of the workers who are not part of the clan are reportedly called "outsiders" and many of those were the people that went on strike.
The suit also names as plaintiffs the International Association of United Workers Union and some individuals who are associated with both the existing union and the company. The strikers claim that the union that exists in the mine now (IAUWU) is a company union run by company managers.
Over the nearly 10 months the workers were on strike, the media consistently visited the site and rallies that were held for the strikers. During these situations many statements were made about the working conditions in the mine, the way workers were treated and the safety of the facility. At times the strike got very personal as well, with strikers throwing out barbs about management and mine officials driving by the strikers time and time again, sometimes stopping to videotape the strikers, supporters and even the media people who were there.
However, media wise, the management of the mine mostly stayed very secluded and quiet, although in a letter to the editor in the Sun Advocate that ran last fall, Charles Reynolds, the human resources manager for the mine, explained the company's side of the dispute and why it occurred. Management also did conduct a short phone interview with a Sun Advocate reporter last fall and also did an extensive interview with a writer from the Salt Lake City Weekly, a paper that was not named in the suit.
Besides the above local media sources, also named in the suit is the United Mine Workers of America, the AFL-CIO, the Socialist Workers Party and their publication The Militant, Jobs with Justice, the Roman Catholic Church, the Tapestry Against Polygamy, the Center for Public Education and Information on Polygamy, the Listeners Community Radio of Utah, Inc., Salt Lake City Codepink, the Utah Progressive Network, and the Earth Island Institute, Inc. along with a number of other media and union affiliated groups. Also named were many of the strikers, as well as individuals within the various organizations and media outlets.
The plaintiff's first claim for relief concerns unfair labor practices, and the second claim, that directly involves the media sources, is about defamation. The suit mentions dozens and dozens of comments made by various people about the situation that were reported in the publications.
"I haven't throughly reviewed the documents yet," said Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress publisher Ken Larson, who was not mentioned in the suit, while four of his staff were. "I have however reviewed the articles that were written about the situation and I seen nothing that defamed anyone. Our job is to report the news, and that comes from many sources. Our reporters talked to people on both sides of the issue and reported what was said by those sources. We have covered this story fairly."