Global solidarity day for miners

TUCSON, Ariz. — “Let the corporation tremble with our solidarity!” thundered Mexican Miners Union leader Juan Linares to hundreds of cheering copper miners, retirees and supporters rallying in De Anza Park here June 21.

The Tucson rally was one of three Global Solidarity Day protests taking place simultaneously in the U.S., Mexico and Peru against giant mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico.

Many of the rallying miners work for Grupo’s wholly owned subsidiary, Asarco. The contract covering approximately 750 miners in the Tucson area expired on July 1, 2004. Members of the United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers and Teamsters have been working without a contract since then.

Asarco is also refusing to negotiate in good faith with workers in El Paso and Amarillo, Texas. The contract covering another 800 workers at Asarco’s Ray Mine in Hayden, Ariz., expired July 1. According to the unions, Asarco has slashed health care coverage for its retirees.

In Mexico, the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of Mexico (STMMRM) has accused Grupo Mexico of trying to destroy the union by promoting “independent” company unions. In Peru, Grupo Mexico is refusing to insure job security or to provide promised quality health care to its miners.

Terry Bonds, regional director of the United Steelworkers, pointed out that “despite soaring copper prices, Asarco has demanded its unions agree to cuts in wages, health care, overtime and vacation payments, reduced pension benefits, and dramatic increases in monthly employee health care premiums.” Bonds thanked the Mexican miners for their solidarity, and expressed disappointment that representatives of the Federation of Workers of the Mines and Metal Industries of Peru (FETIMAP) were refused visas to enter the U.S. to participate in the solidarity rally.

Global Solidarity Day was created to give life to the principle that workers must organize globally to struggle against global corporations. The three unions joined in demanding that, in the U.S., Asarco restore retirees’ health care and bargain fairly with the mine unions. They are demanding an end to interference in the internal affairs of STMMRM in Mexico. And in Peru, they are demanding respect for the workers, job security, health care and an end to discrimination against contract employees.

Ruben Reyes, assistant to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), expressed the congressman’s solidarity with the copper workers in Arizona and across the world. Also speaking were USW Subdistrict Director Manny Armenta, Arizona AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Michael McGrath and Tucson City Council member Steve Leal.

The rally ended with over 200 participants braving the searing desert sun and 100-degree-plus heat for a spirited two-block march to Asarco headquarters, where they chanted slogans and sang solidarity songs.

The rally included many supporters from sister unions and dozens of community supporters mobilized by Tucson’s Jobs with Justice coalition.