Cleveland: Put miners back to work!

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland City Council, at its Sept. 9 meeting, unanimously passed a resolution demanding that “Cargill Deicing Technology restore former strikers to their rightful jobs”, and urging “the Mayor of the City of Cleveland to refrain from buying Cargill salt until the former strikers return to their jobs.”

The council meeting followed a large, lively demonstration on City Hall steps, organized by Teamsters Local 436 and its 165 salt mine members, with strong support from Cleveland Jobs with Justice, AFL-CIO and Building Trades.

Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, whose Ward 17 includes the salt mine, said he and Ward 14 Councilman Nelson Cintron were introducing a resolution into the city council after the rally. Cintron read from the resolution and denounced Cargill for “importing scabs to break Teamster Local 436. What Cargill forgot,” he said, “is we are a union town.”

Local 436 President Gary Tiboni accused the Cargill company of “bad-faith bargaining and lies” from the time negotiations started. “This company, with an $88 million dollar profit last year, sat and lied to us,” he said.

The lies included a company agreement to put the strikers back to work after they voted to return under the old contract. Instead, on the day they were told to report to work, they were faced with locked gates and armed guards. Soon after, 120 of the strikers received termination notices.

Tiboni said the company has requested further negotiations, and the union would be telling them, “put all 165 of our members back to work!”

Ohio State Senator Robert Hagan spoke, comparing Cargill to Enron and other billion-dollar corporations out to rob workers of their rights, jobs and benefits. “No jobs, no salt! Stand up and fight!” shouted Bob Hagan, along with chants from the crowd.

He also read a quote from his brother, Tim Hagan, who is in a red-hot race for governor. “No Cargill salt will be spread on any Ohio road if I am elected governor,” said Tim Hagan, “unless all 165 miners are put back to work.”

Nancy Colon, a rank-and-file leader of the strike, told of her dangerous job 2,000 feet under Lake Erie. “It’s my job and we’ll not let them take it away,” she said, with a roar of approval from the crowd.

The miners had been talking about losing their houses and cars and having utilities cut off. Cleveland’s United Labor Agency met with them Sept. 3 and is providing much-needed relief for the embattled miners. Colon and miners’ wives, Lisa Cingle and Sandy White, received special citations in the council meeting for their work in organizing the rally.

Union negotiator Steve Cingle had said the last company offer contained worse language than that in the existing contract on the most serious issue – subcontracting out work and jobs. “We would be gone – slowly but surely,” he said.

“They want cheap, obedient, entry-level people,” said 23-year miner Myron Krocek.

Cargill Deicing Technologies is a company affiliated with the huge Cargill international conglomerate. Cargill bought the Cleveland salt mine five years ago, and miners say they immediately saw an anti-union attitude coming from the new owner. “We foresaw then the time would come when this company would try to break our union,” they said, “and here it is.”

The author can be reached at wallyk@ncweb.com