This is in response to Mr. Watsonís article on the 2 year strike against Hecla Mining Company by Union Workers at the Lucky Friday mine.
Iím not quite sure Mr. Watson why you have decided to paint a negative picture towards the Union in yet another biased article. There are a couple rumors about why, but as a Union we are committed to truths and facts, so your reason will remain your own.
I will tell you this about our Union officers. They have been elected to carry out the day to day chores of Union business. They have absolutely no more power than any other member. Every move we make is voted on by the membership and officers do not sway the vote one way or the other. My only comment about the ďAliasesĒ you interviewed is this; Every mine has workers who have a higher self opinion of their skill level than others do, and they donít feel they should have to put in the time to earn their way to a work heading. They seem to think that all wages and benefits they earn are just given to them by the company and not negotiated through collective bargaining and they shouldnít have to sacrifice in any form to make a living.
Our Union is made up from over 200 families, most who have lived in the Silver Valley their whole lives. I assure you we are not mafia, nor a mob, nor a regime of any kind. We are middle class folks who care about our families, this valley, and each other, as opposed to scab workers who put their needs and desires first and foremost above ali others.
There seems to be a consensus from a few residents that this strike is about a bidding system. Let me make this as clear as possible. The contract offer from Hecla is designed to BREAK THE UNION AND GAIN COMPLETE AND TOTAL CONTROL OF THE WORKFORCE, PERIOD!
A fair contract is one that respects our collective voice as a Union so as to retain job security and safety in the workplace. Iím not going to go into detail on the disputed offer Hecla has laid on the table, thatís for our negotiating team to do, but it is enough to say that it is a backwards step across the board in every way imaginable and the majority of our members will be making many thousands of dollars less per year. And this offer was coming off of a 69 million dollar profit for Hecla, the best production at the Lucky Friday in 16 years, and a million dollar plus raise to CEO Baker.
To remind your readers Mr. Watson; from the very beginning of negotiations the Union was fine to re-sign the existing 2010 contract and go back to work. Let me say that again...We were fine with asking for NOTHING! Hecia had other ideas and hasnít budged any measurable amount in near 3 years now. The Union has been creative and tried to meet Hecla half way on some of their ideas, but no deal and none in sight.
I feel horrible being witness to the effects this strike has on local businesses and friendships in this valley. But I can tell you this without hesitation; the overwhelming majority of this Unionís workforce doesnít appreciate Hecla Mining Companyís foot on our collective necks in their attempt to mute our voice. We demand more respect than that. We deserve more respect than that, and; through a long list of fellow workers who have lost their lives at the Lucky Friday, we have EARNED more respect than that.
Our resolve has never been stronger, our wide spread support has never been greater, and our local community support inspires us more every day.
Phil Baker, CEO OF Hecla, calls the shots on this dispute. Trust me, Iíve been working for Hecta since 1979 and the Hecla of Gus Voltolini and Art Brown is gone for good. What we have now is a disrespectful company who is attempting to strip away workers ability to negotiate the conditions of their employment Hecla will tell you they are not trying to break the Union, because they will still recognize us as a Union in the language of the contract, but we would be a tiger without claws and they know it. Proof of Heclaís desire for complete control was in the fact that several unfair labor practices were filed against them and they were charged with these violations by the National Labor Relations Board, ranging from intimidation to violating terms of the collective bargaining agreement. They settled all of them before they reached the hearing because they knew they had no defense of them. This is the Hecla of today, we have no choice but to stand and fight for our rights.
The attack on this Union was unnecessary, unprovoked, and unexpected by a well trained, dependable, self motivated, ass-kicking workforce that is scattered to the 4 winds now and will never be the same. I donít know how or when, or even if Hecla wants this strike to end. But I know we will continue to fight for our rights for as long as it takes.
USW Local 5114