Monday, March 22, 2004

Utah Miners Strike In Safety/Pay Struggle

From China to the U.S....Coal Seventy-four coal miners at C.W. Mining Company's Bear Canyon mine (known also as Co-Op mine) in Huntington, Utah were illegally fired from their jobs on Sept. 22, 2003, after they protested the suspension of a co-worker and unsafe job conditions. The mine, owned by the Kingston family, had suspended UMWA supporter William Estrada for refusing to sign a disciplinary warning the week before.
At the time, it was the company's third attempt to victimize a UMWA supporter, according to the Co-Op miners. The miners were involved in organizing themselves into the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
Until recently, coal never struck my fancy. But this past week I met two coal miners from Huntington, Utah: William Estrada and Ana Lilia Vilalba, originally from El Salvador and Mexico, respectively. They educated me more than I had expected.

It would have been nice to just talk with them about the importance of their work, but instead, we talked about their working conditions.

Estrada and Vilalba are among 75 workers who have been locked out of their mining jobs since they decided to organize to demand better pay and better working conditions. Losing a job is difficult anywhere, but in the area where they come from in Utah, the Kingston family not only owns the Utah's Co-Op Mine, but many other businesses.

Working conditions at this mine have been in the news before. Three workers were killed in accidents in the mine since 1996.

"In coal mines, safety is a big thing," said Estrada, 37. "But in this company, if you're in a position to report an accident, you either work while injured or you risk losing your job. If you report an accident, they may accuse you of damaging the equipment and they'll take away your bonus."
Check out the UMWA website for more information.