Tucson: Copper miners on strike in Arizona
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After more than a year of company stalling and game playing instead of fair negotiations, workers at ASARCO owned copper mines and mills are on strike. Rejecting their bosses’ so called “best and final offer,” some 2,000 copper workers voted overwhelmingly to walk off their jobs on October 13th.

ASARCO operates three open pit copper mines and a smelter in Arizona and a refinery in Amarillo, Texas. Most of the striking workers belong to the United Steelworkers (USW), but also include seven other unions among them the Teamsters, IBEW, Machinists, Operating Engineers, and Boilermakers.  All these unions cooperate in negotiations with the company.

USW District 12 Director, Bob LeVenture, called ASARCO’s four year contract offer “an insult to union members by including no wage increase for two thirds of the workers, freezing existing pension plans, and more than doubling out of pocket contributions individual workers already pay for health care.”  LeVenture pointed out that most workers haven’t had a raise in years, but have sacrificed to sustain the company during the last economic downturn and now deserve a fair contract.

Two of the mines are located in the Tucson area where the entire labor federation has been mobilizing to support the strikers and their families.  At both locations community supporter have been coming out to join picketing and bring cold water, soft drinks, and food to sustain an around the clock presence.  On Wednesday afternoon local Jobs with Justice activists were at the Silver Bell mine entrance roasting burgers and hot dogs for strikers and some of their family members. Other supporters were doing the same at the Mission Mine south of Tucson.  Solidarity activists encourage anybody driving on Interstate 19 between Tucson and the Mexican border to stop by the picketers – just west of the freeway at the Pima Mine Rd. exit.  A friendly visit, even a brief one, is a good morale booster for what appears to be a long hard fight ahead.

ASARCO is a subsidiary of predator Corporate giant Grupo Mexico, which also owns mines in Mexico and South America, as well as rail roads and others industries.  Grupo is also a notorious polluter found responsible by the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental contamination at 20 U.S. Superfund sites.  In 2014 a Grupo owned mine in Cananea, Mexico was responsible for spilling millions of gallons of a sulfuric Acid solution into the Sonora River poisoning the drinking water of people and their livestock and farms for 150 miles,  Mexico’s worst ever environmental disaster.


Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.