Steelworkers plan solidarity rally in Minneapolis for Idaho miners on strike

Members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 on the picket line in Mullen, Idaho. (Facebook photo)

Striking miners from Idaho will bring their fight for a fair contract to Minneapolis this month, and local activists are making plans to bolster their ranks.

About 250 members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 employed by Hecla Mining went on strike last March, after working a full year without a new contract. The company has demanded – and unilaterally imposed – radical changes to Steelworkers’ working conditions, job security and health benefits.

The strike, a legally protected action in response to charges of unfair labor practices, has driven a wedge through the small town of Mullan, Idaho, site of Hecla’s Lucky Friday Mine.

Striking workers will extend their picket line from Mullan to Minneapolis during a national mining trade show Feb. 25 to 28. Hecla is sponsoring the event, staged at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Local Steelworkers plan solidarity actions throughout the trade show, and they are inviting supporters from other unions to join a rally at noon Feb. 26 in front of Lobby Door B at the convention center.

The Lucky Friday mine began operations in 1942, and until the strike began last year, it was producing silver at historic levels, according to reports by the company. Hecla turned a profit of nearly $70 million in 2016, and CEO Phillips S. Baker, Jr. rewarded himself with a robust compensation increase, from $4.7 million to $6.4 million.

But production at Lucky Friday has ground to a near-halt since the work stoppage.

In a letter to Hecla shareholders, union members warned that a “90 percent production drop” at the mine is proof the strike is not benefiting anyone. Stock in Hecla has lost 40 percent of its value over the last year.

“Neither our local union nor our elected international leaders will allow Hecla to silence our voices,” Steelworkers wrote in a letter dated Jan. 5. “The company’s attack on our contract was unprovoked and unnecessary, does nothing to increase production or improve the safety of employees but so far has cost the company and its shareholders millions of dollars.”

Read more about the Lucky Friday strike.

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