Hecla Mine Strike to Continue After Union Nixes Arbitration (2)

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

A union that represents striking workers at Hecla Mining Co.'s Lucky Friday mine rejected an arbitration proposal, a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law March 9.

The vote by members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 means a strike that’s been going on for about a year at the mine in Mullan, Idaho, will continue.

“The Union had suggested arbitration. We agreed it would allow a third party to determine which contract would be fair for all. Unfortunately, the vote stops that,” Luke Russell, vice president of external affairs at Hecla, said in a statement.

Local 5114 members voted 123-51 on March 7 not to accept the arbitration proposal, according to the union’s Facebook page.

“We have played the game, jumped through the hoops, and everyone has had the chance to vote. We have chosen to remain on strike rather than let someone else decide our future,” the union said.

“Hecla will continue to evaluate its next steps but for now we will continue with the limited production and development using our salary workforce,” Phillips S. Baker Jr., Hecla’s president and CEO, said in the company’s statement.

Job Bidding System Is Main Issue

The Lucky Friday mine employs about 250 miners. The miners were working under an expired agreement before the strike began on March 13, 2017.

The company’s proposal to place job assignment responsibilities in the hands of management prompted the strike, the Steelworkers said at the time. The union said the change would endanger the lives of the miners.

“The strike is primarily about a unique bidding system that no other mine in the United States works under, and is only advantageous to a controlling minority,” according to Hecla’s labor relations website.

Local 5114 didn’t respond March 9 to requests for comment on the arbitration vote.

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