Dinner raises $1,400 to support miners

Residents kick in to assist striking Utah miners

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Moffat County residents raised $1,400 to assist the striking Co-Op Miners of Huntington, Utah, during a solidarity dinner and meeting at St. Michael's Catholic Church Saturday night.

Those at the dinner joined the ranks of union supporters in Tennessee, Illinois and Los Angeles who have sent money to the miners. Help has come from as far away as England, where a coal miners union donated $1,175 to the Co-Op miners.

The miners have been on strike for more than 100 days now, protesting low pay and alleged unsafe working conditions at C. W. Mining Company's Bear Canyon mine, commonly called Co-Op mine.

Karen Ray, a member of a Craig committee collecting food and money for the miners, said support from local businesses has been "wonderful." She and other committee members planned the dinner for two weeks.

Organizers requested a $10 donation per person. Tacos, enchiladas, barbecue chicken, desserts and plenty of other food was donated by Casa Loya, Pat's Roosterante, Tortilleria Azteca, Serendipity's Coffee Shop and Wild West BBQ.

Four Co-Op miners, Gonzalo Salazar, Domingo Olivas, Guillermo Hernandez and Arturo Rodriguez, drove from Huntington to attend the dinner, and spent the night with local families before returning to Utah the next day.

The striking miners are Mexican immigrants, but supporters at Saturdays event were white and Hispanic. Salazar, speaking through an interpreter, said many supporters from California are black and Asian.

"The Americans are helping us," he said.

The miners said the cross-cultural support they've received is a turnabout from their situation at the mine. All the miners agreed they've been taken advantage of because of their ethnicity. Salazar said white miners who refused to tolerate working conditions walked off the job, but Hispanics stayed and put up with it because it's harder for them to find another job.

The miners allege they were paid between $5.25 and $7 an hour, received no health insurance or benefits, and were forced to work in violation of Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Salazar said the miners have been strongly supported by the Roman Catholic Church. Father Roger Lascelle said it's not unusual for the church to help labor causes.

"The church has always been for the working man," Lascelle said. "It's a common sense thing, so when approached about it, it was easy to decide to support them."

Carol Amy spoke after the dinner representing United Mine Workers of America Local 1799.

"Our relatives were immigrants and had to struggle years ago," she said. "Now new immigrants have a new struggle."

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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