Canadian Workers Support Mining Workers in Idaho

BC and U.S. Steelworkers Rally at Hecla Mining's Annual General Meeting

Vancouver, May 23, 2019

BC steelworkers and allies joined striking miners from Idaho on May 23 to protest the anti-labour practices of U.S.-based Hecla Mining. The action was launched as Hecla Mining held its annual general meeting in Vancouver.

Approximately 240 members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 have been on strike for over two years at Hecla's Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho. This is the longest labour dispute in the history of the state's Silver Valley. The miners worked under terms of an expired agreement for nearly 11 months before Hecla management's refusal to negotiate with the workers and demands for anti-worker concessions forced the workers to go on strike in March 2017.

Lucky Friday is an underground silver, lead, and zinc mine located in the Coeur d'Alene mining district in northern Idaho. Hecla Mining Company operates silver mines in Alaska (Greens Creek), Idaho (Lucky Friday), and Mexico (San Sebastian) and operates gold mines in Quebec (Casa Berardi in the Abitibi region) and Nevada (Fire Creek and Hollister).

At the protest, workers told shareholders going into the meeting that Hecla's anti-worker activities are hurting workers, their families and shareholders. They demanded that the shareholders exert pressure on Hecla Mining executives to negotiate a collective agreement acceptable to the workers.

Workers report that Hecla's concessionary demands amount to having the mine operate without the union and without the workers having any say in their working conditions.

One striking worker wrote on the union local's Facebook page that, "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. [...] I'm not going to go into detail on the disputed offer Hecla has laid on the table, that's 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 [...] I can tell you this without hesitation; the overwhelming majority of this Union's workforce doesn't appreciate Hecla Mining Company's 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."

Amongst the company's concessionary demands, workers have highlighted the following: workers will have to pay much more money for their medical coverage and Hecla wants to be able to make changes to the coverage without their approval; Hecla is demanding an end to the bidding regime to determine work teams and assignments at the mine; it wants to be the sole decider of who works at the mine and to be able to replace unionized workers with non-union workers without restriction; job progression would take place at the sole discretion of the company; on a daily basis, supervisors and management would assign where workers are to work; shifts could be anywhere between 8 to 12 hours, at the company's discretion, etc. Workers see this as having a union in name only, which they reject.

Lucky Friday mining workers have been waging actions in defence of their rights and dignity in Silver Valley, as well as in many cities across the U.S. and Canada.

Striking Hecla miners visit New Westminster, May 24, 2019, to speak about their struggle at the local labour council.

(Photos: USW District 3, USW Local 5114, New Westminster and District Labour Council)

This article was published in

Number 21 - June 6, 2019

Article Link:
Canadian Workers Support Mining Workers in Idaho: BC and U.S. Steelworkers Rally at Hecla Mining's Annual General Meeting


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