Coal miner Francisco Picado of Craig is helping organize a relief effort for immigrant miners who lost their jobs after they complained about safety hazards and poor working conditions at the Co-Op coal mine in Emery County, Utah.
"These are very courageous people," said Picado, a member of Local 1984 of the United Mine Workers. "They've been out of work now for over 100 days. They have very little income but are determined to fight for justice."
On Sept. 22, about 75 miners were fired by CW Mining Co., the company that owns Co-Op, for trying to organize a union, miners say. These men, who made next to nothing to begin with, have been out of work for nearly four months, picketing outside the mine for six hours a day. Picado and his local union, based in Rangely, are making efforts to support them.
"For my union, this fight is critical," Picado said. "We can't lose this fight."
He said he fears that if other laborers and union members are complacent and allow the miners at Co-Op to be mistreated and neglected, it could be a setback for labor rights everywhere.
Picado carpools 80 miles one way to work at Deserado Mine, near Rangely. He gets paid $22 an hour. The miners at Co-Op, mostly Mexican immigrants, made between $5.75 and $7 an hour, the pay of a high school kid working at a fast food chain. The miners there allege mine owners purchased old, faulty equipment from other mines, and that female laborers did not have bathroom facilities.
In December, Don Thomas, a miner at the Deserado mine, proposed that the local union skip its annual Christmas party and use the money to buy food for the picketing miners. Thomas and Picado went shopping and bought about $1,000 worth of groceries. They delivered the food to a gathering of miners' families in Huntington, Utah. Some of the miners wives had formed an ad hoc committee to take care of the donations.
"In just a few minutes, the ladies had divided up everything and all the families got equal shares," Thomas said. "They divided it into portions so efficiently. I was really impressed to see how united they were, when in today's society people go their own ways. It was great to see people work together for
On Sunday, Picado addressed the congregation at an evening Mass at St. Michael's Church.
There will be a meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the church to discuss ways people in and around Craig can help the Co-Op miners. Anyone who can't make the meeting but still wants to help can call Picado at 824-5567 or Thomas at 435-789-6414.
Picado said food banks and monetary funds have already been set up in Price, Utah, for the miners. People can also send the miners messages of support.
"The encouragement helps," Picado said. "It makes a big difference to find out you're not alone."
Send contributions of checks or money orders, or words of encouragement, to:
Co Op Miners Fund
525 South First Street
Price, UT 84501