Most of the Lucky Friday miners a part of United Steelworkers (USW) Union local 5114 chapter really did not know what they were going to see on Monday morning at 5:30 when they officially began their strike, but they do know that if they are going to make this strike worthwhile they are going to have to work together.
Spirits were high as the miners stood together in the rain on Monday, getting honks from the occasional passerby and plenty of coverage from the various media outlets in the region.
Despite those high spirits, there is a sense of disdain at the core of the situation where the miners believe they have been slighted by their corporate executives.
The miners feel as though the legacy of their livelihoods is under attack and they say that they are not going to be the ones who let that legacy get taken away.
“This kind of stuff is happening all over right now,” Union member and Lucky Friday haul-truck driver, Cameron Erickson said. “We can’t give into this kind of stuff, we can’t be the ones who roll over.”
Fellow employee and miner Chad Martello pointed out the legacy from the generations past as he agreed with Erickson’s statement.
“There used to be a lot of pride here that had been earned,” Martello said.
“We can’t give away what the people before us fought for 30, 40, or 50 years ago.”
Both spoke of the impact this strike could have on the Silver Valley and how they do not feel as though Hecla values them; stressing that it is money, not workers, who the company cares about.
“We are really going to have to hit them in the one place that they can be hurt and that is in their pocketbook,” Erickson said. “We weren’t asking for much. But now the whole area is going to be affected, businesses, everything. You aren’t going to see people buying houses, you aren’t going to see people going to Dave Smith to buy new rigs. We are in this for the long haul.”
Martello believes that this will actually force residents out of the Silver Valley.
“People are probably going to begin moving out because they only lived here for this mine and the life it gave them,” Martello said.
According Hecla’s release commenting on the strike, the median income for an hourly employee at the Lucky Friday is just over $84,000, but according the miners, that number is more like $70-75,000.
“That may have been true a few years ago when everything was at an all-time high, but that isn’t the case anymore,” Martello said.
According to most of the miners, there is a clear disconnect between Hecla management and the people that work for them
“At one point at a quarterly meeting they (mine management) came out and said ‘we chose our career path and you guys choose yours,’ well we are all cogs in the same wheel, we should be looking out for each other but they have lost sight of that,” Erickson said.
From a family perspective, this strike has possible ramifications that could rock several homes in Shoshone County.
Shawn Stutzke, a man who in his 12 years at the Lucky Friday has done everything except run the hoist, says that he could be forced to make changes that would take him away from his home and his family.
“I have done just about everything here, but I decided to be a surface worker so that I could have a more stable schedule and be more involved with my daughter,” Stutzke said.
Stutzke coaches his daughter’s sports team and is very involved as a family man.
Stressing that if he can’t work the schedule he needs and make a decent wage, he will have to find work somewhere else.
“I don’t want to work out of town, but it may come to that,” Stutzke said.
Stutzke’s wife, Torrie, is a third-grade teacher at Pinehurst Elementary School and is concerned the strike will have a negative impact on their 8-year-old daughter, Jordyn.
“I think the biggest impact will be on my daughter,” Torrie said. “I can go without trivial things, I can understand the situation and grasp the reality of why Shawn will have to leave. But to an 8-year-old she doesn’t understand why dad has to be gone.”
This reality could be a real one for a lot of families locally and Torrie was able to expound on what that could look like.
“As a family this the strike means so very much. We have fought hard to have a life where my husband is present in it,” Torrie said. “As a couple, when we chose to have kids we knew how important it was that we both work in town and are home with our daughter. We both have the opportunity to be present in her everyday life. Now with the strike, most inevitably Shawn will have to leave. Which means a full time father now becomes a father who misses three weeks out of a month of my daughter’s life. A full time father now has to miss special moments and milestones. A full time father now has to miss out on nightly homework and goodnight rituals.”
Silver Valley residents probably will not have to wait long to see if Mrs. Stutzke’s prediction comes true, as the effects of this strike could be seen in the days, weeks, and maybe months to come.