Asarco strike enters week 7: Interview with USW Local 937 President Alex Terrazas
Fight Back! interview with the president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 937 Alex Terrazas.
Fight Back!: How have negotiations with Asarco gone so far?
Terrazas: After ten years without a raise, and four years without a new contract, our members voted overwhelmingly to strike. Day 1 began at midnight on October 13 and only after a full month of shutting down the majority of production did Asarco decide to come to the table on November 14. They did not bring a new proposal, nor change their stance. They are unwilling to actually negotiate. They are not taking us seriously. After the one day of so-called negotiations, there haven’t been any further negotiations and no date set. It was super clear that they only did this to try to make themselves look good. All we want is a fair, equitable contract, but this is a very greedy company.
Fight Back!: What has given the strike its longevity?
Terrazas: Our members understand exactly the importance of this fight. They are willing to do what it takes to win. Some people think that striking workers are lazy. Well, this is exactly the opposite. Some members and officers are sacrificing 12, 13 hours a day to help out. They are working jobs and still coming to the picket line to help out. There’s nothing lazy about them they are working three times as much as before the strike. They are so dedicated.
Fight Back!: What kind of support have you all received?
Terrazas: Our union’s strike defense funds have helped our members a lot. There has also been support from the AFL-CIO and Pima Area Labor Federation in terms of connecting our members to food donations collected at the city ward offices, donations from the Community Food Bank, donated dental services, resource fairs, and wood for fires. State Representative Andres Cano helped members get connected with state healthcare benefits. Another huge piece for us has been the connection with One Stop that has found jobs for our members so that they can have some income and more importantly not cross the picket line. We have had great community support, RedForEd has been down here a couple of times. We are starting a campaign to get local businesses to support us by putting signs in their windows. We have had good coverage in the media so far to expose Asarco’s greed.
Fight Back!: What kind of leverage do you have in a unfair labor practices strike?
Terrazas: So of the four mines in Arizona, the Hayden site is a smelting operation and we had that shut down by week two of the strike and the Amarillo, Texas smelting site is shut down as well. This has forced Asarco to load up railcars and sent them to Mexico, which we know if costing them lots of money in transportation costs. We have shut down operations and crippled production by more than half! We also know that we have the majority of skilled labor out on strike and that costs Asarco a lot of money because the scabs don’t know how to fix the machines and how to operate all the equipment. At the north mill at the Mission mine, there aren’t even one-quarter of the shovel drivers, so this too is causing the company to lose a lot in profits. As I said before, this is a very greedy company and we’re gonna screw them by hitting them in the pocketbooks.