Thoughts on Hecla’s labor relations page

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I was reading through the Lucky Friday Labor Relations page and couldn’t believe how disingenuous these guys can get. So as my hair began to rise on the back of my neck and my blood pressure began to rise, I decided to write a response to a few of the questions for therapeutic reasons.

(1) How much cash did the Lucky Friday produce for Hecla in 2016?

Hecla says we “consumed over 20 million in 2016 but yet I received 12 profit share checks that added up to $8,000.

Once again proving Hecla loves to bend or mask the numbers to their advantage.

(2) The question was about production records--If there was any.

For 2016 Phil Baker described production as “the most in sixteen years”.

But that wasn’t a record.

What they failed to disclose, is this amount of production was accomplished while the #4 internal shaft project had priority as far as haulage of muck and materials in the main silver shaft.

This hamstrung the process and kept a lot of work headings muck bound and unable to produce at full potential.

And with that said, let’s give credit where credit is due.

The 3.6 million ounces of silver that was produced last year would never had happened without creativity between muck bay bosses and production bosses as well as mechanic and electrical bosses.

This is what in my mind is falling apart at the seams as we speak.

The team effort, and respect that has to exist between management and labor to make this engine run safely and efficiently is eroding daily as this thing drags on.

My point is, this mine is setup to break any and all records (safety and production), just the way it sits.

But for reasons that defy imagination, they can somehow justify shutting the mine down and having a negative effect on an entire valley of several thousand people all in the name of more power and control.

Let’s be perfectly clear, this is a union busting tactic, nothing more nothing less, they can tap dance around it all day, but we know that as a fact and so do they, and that is what this strike is all about.

(3) Do the Lucky Friday miners have a history of choosing their partners based on safety performance?

Hecla states the most senior qualified miner chooses partners on a “who you know” basis.

That, I must say is correct.

We choose partners who we know are the best available safe and qualified “go getters” we can get, to have the most safe and productive headings, and that gives us a chance at making maximum potential earnings.

It wouldn’t make sense to choose someone with lesser skills.

Has it been done in the past?

Yes, but I haven’t seen an example of it in years.

Those days are over and the company knows it.

There is a saying amongst miners: “Business before friendship”.

This system has served both Hecla and the workforce well over the years, but for current management this system doesn’t give them enough control, and their arrogance can’t stand that.

They are trying their best to gain 100% power and control over the workforce and cripple the union as much as possible.

(4) Under the Lucky Friday bid system, are mine dept. employees able to develop new skills and advance as their ambition and skills allow? Hecla contends employees are isolated and “get stuck” within the current bid system.

Since I am only a miner who works at development and ore headings, I can only speak for miners on this question.

There is absolutely not a better way for someone to be safely brought along at his or her own pace than working as a helper or “nipper” if your quest is to become a miner.

If you want to learn how to become a miner, being a nipper gives you the opportunity to listen, watch, and learn with two individual miners with similar but different techniques (no 2 miners are exactly the same), and combine them into what works for you. Between the miners and shift bosses guiding this individual’s’ safety and productive skills he or she can be evaluated, and if they pass all tests, all they need is for the good word to get around, and in a small mine like the Lucky Friday, word gets around fast, and it won’t take too long before they will have their opportunity.

This is the way it has been done for over 100 years, and the reason it is the standard is because there is no safer way to do it.

Hecla labels this system “archaic” because they want folks to think it is outdated and doesn’t work.

Their thoughts are, only if they alone can evaluate and place workers can this be done properly.

Once again, safety takes a back seat to power and control.

(5) Does the Lucky Friday have trouble attracting new talent as a result of the bid system? Hecla says yes, miners quit because the system is “who you know” and not “what you know”.

Thirty years ago there were so many work headings at the Lucky Friday that any new miner hired was placed in a mining job and immediately went to work mining.

Since the new Lucky Friday Long Wall (LUFL) system became the new normal, the stopes became longer and available work headings became less in number.

So yes, because of the type of mining being done at the Lucky Friday, even if you are a good miner with a good reputation you may have a period of time to wait to get into a more suitable job for your qualifications, but all good miners get there eventually, and all good miners know that.

Truth be told, there is only two things in a gypo miners head, First and foremost, going home safe at the end of the day, and second is making as much money as he possibly can.

The good miners that I’ve known over the years have quit either because of the schedule, or more so the low money that is paid to gypos at the Lucky Friday.

The “who you know” narrative is total B.S.

I could go down this entire list of these questions on Hecla’s Lucky Friday Labor Relations site and debunk most of them.

Some of them come fairly close to the truth, but always with a company slant.

I guess they call that good business.

I call it a crying shame from the Hecla that I once worked for.

There are a lot of other issues that have created this strike other than the ones addressed here, and I can only address the ones pertaining to mining, because that’s what I do.

But remember we are all being represented by a diverse negotiating committee, and all of our concerns are on the table.


Rick “Redman” Norman

Wallace, Idaho

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