Open letter to Phil Baker, CEO Hecla Mining Co.

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Mr. Baker,

Since you felt compelled to attract support for your labor contract offer to Lucky Friday hourly workers in the form of a full page ad in the News-Press, I feel compelled to respond in the News-Press as well.

First of all Mr. Baker, I truly believe you grossly underestimate the intelligence of the people of the Silver Valley.

This valley is loaded with mining folks from years past (salaried and hourly), that have seen these types of tactics time and time again.

During our informational pickets that we held this past summer I found out that most of the older people in the valley know more about mining and mining disputes than I would ever care to.

Your ad seems to suggest that we are afraid of change.

Mining IS change Sir, especially in an old and enduring mine like the Lucky Friday.

As you know, as we go deeper underground we encounter change in temperature, change in water volume, changes in rock stress and pressures.

Our challenges never cease with rock dust and equipment gases in the air and rock bursts and air blasts are all too common.

We are not afraid of change Sir, we embrace it.

It is part of the challenge we take on every day to produce a product and get it shipped down the road.

We buy into a new culture of safety, we understand about risk management, and if you want to bring up to date a new system in line with today’s technology, then great; but don’t expect labor to take wide sweeping cuts because you want to upgrade and “streamline.”

Mr. Baker, your negotiating team isn’t even offering to keep the contract as is, the same, without any change at all, but rather insisting on cuts all around. How can you possibly expect us to vote yes on a contract that makes us go backward while Hecla moves forward with a great future ahead?

The increase in base wage that you are offering is quickly lost in higher medical, dental, and vision premiums and deductibles and they could potentially increase every year. Not to mention the cut we would take in the silver price premium, which is a big player in our annual bottom line.

Losing recall rights after only a 3 month layoff could only be used as a way to put workers at risk to not being called back at all. A 3 month upgrade on the mill and you could get rid of me and anyone else you choose. Unacceptable.

The job progression plan your team has offered is just a way of giving more power and control to management so they can mix and match people when and where they want at their discretion. The bid system we have now is considered the cornerstone of any union and without it our voice in the workplace is greatly silenced. This system has been labeled “outdated” by your team. This system has broken production records time and time again throughout the years, and a big reason for that is the “ownership of responsibility” that comes with the team that is picked by labor. There is a lot of pride and competition between teams and this is only a good and productive thing for labor and management. To discard this bidding system, in my opinion, would be a huge mistake pertaining to production and safety.

Even the vacation benefit that we fought for over the years was cut. Why is it imperative to cut back benefits while streamlining your system?

Mr. Baker, we have many well trained and experienced mechanics, who I call magicians in terms of what they can get accomplished. We have skilled electricians who work in extreme temperatures accomplishing tasks in short periods of time as to not disrupt production. We have equipment operators who literally run the tires off of trucks and loaders and do it while remaining focused and safe in extreme heat. We have smart and on the ball top landers and cagers and mill hands that are trained to the hilt.

We stand at the ready Sir, to go to work and continue breaking safety and production records at the Lucky Friday. But we will not be bullied or intimidated into voting for an offer that is so disrespectful to what we do for this company.

As I told your Sr. V.P. of Operations, Mr. Radford in a recent letter: To devalue our contract in these profitable times for both the Lucky Friday and Hecla, is to devalue us as a workforce, and we tend to take that a bit personal.

I implore you Sir to instruct your team to return to the negotiating table and this time negotiate in good faith by listening to the other side and let’s put this thing behind us and GET TO WORK!!

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Rick Norman Wallace Idaho

Lucky Friday Mine

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