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Workers locked out at borax mines in Boron in growing labor dispute

The Rio Tinto borax mine in Boron made good on threats of a lockout, shutting the doors today on about 570 hourly workers after the two sides failed to reach a deal on a new labor contract.

It began at 7 a.m. as employees and their families showed up outside the gates saying they wanted to work, but were told they couldn’t come in. Replacements were brought in to do their jobs.

“The last thing we want to do is hurt our employees, but we cannot continue to negotiate without a willing partner and we cannot continue to deliver on our commitments to customers with the threat of a strike hanging over our heads,” Dean Gehring, general manager of the mine, said in a statement today.

Rio Tinto, a London-based mining giant with operations on five continents, has been negotiating with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 30 for the last five months. The company says it has lost 25% of its global borax share and needs to make changes to stay competitive.

The union is resisting proposed changes in the seniority system it believes would open the door to nepotism and cronyism and ultimately to breaking the union.

“They are locking out workers and telling the families they are going to take food off the table and threaten their jobs unless people agree to roll over and surrender their rights to the corporation,” said union spokesman Craig Merrilees.

“To their credit, people are standing up and saying, 'Enough is enough. You may be big, you may operations all over the world, but the line is being drawn here in Boron and you will have a fight if you want to destroy our jobs, our lives and our communities.'”

-- David Kelly

 
Comments () | Archives (22)

The first thing the employees must recognize is that pay checks come from Employers, not unions. Next, they must recognize that unions are in the business of staying in business. Tell your union reps to stand aside, then tell your employer you want to work.

Look...just because a corporation gives you a job doesn't mean that you now control the corporation! That's typical union thug mentality. If you want to be in charge then start your own company! If I was Rio Tinto I would do the same thing---REPLACE THE UNION WORKERS WITH PEOPLE WHO RESPECT THE COMPANY AND ARE WILLING TO WORK. I can't believe these union pukes aren't happy enough just have a job out in that god forsaken desert hole called Boron.

Unions destroy capitalism...good riddance.

Another example of a union failing to compromise.

This is all part ig the company's scheme to bring in cheap,unskilled foriegn labor,thus increasing their profits ten-fold.The powers that be (the new world order) want no part of organized labor and are systematically destroying them one by one.Woodrow wilson and the Bush family love this.

Borax more like BORE-OX

In this economy, they should be happy they HAVE jobs.

They don't get any sympathy from me.

Hold the line Local 30!

I know the town. Fires and violence will grow like Rodney King in Los Angeles! You watch! The Feds & State Police will be called into Boron!!!

hey rio tinto i will take the job contact me. i do not care about a union anymore everyman for him self. i watched many union brothers suffer. but jobs are dieing and becoming fewer and fewer to obtain.

sign me up. i have been working non union for 10 years. plus the many people i work for would not allow me to retire after twenty years of service. no work no pay period. so why should these people get special treatment. i will take your jobs me and my friends gladly. as the studios take all the jobs to canada or india. get the picture if you can afford the tickets.

First of all, they are trying to take away the rights that my grandfather, my father, and me have had at this job. Rio tinto made in the BILLIONS of dollars last year...thet aren't hurting for "profit". They are looking to increase profit at the expense of the employees. I think the 4 comments on this page other than mine are people who don't fight for their rights or a better life.....they probablly just live life trying to scrape by. Well, good luck with that. I will fight to keep what I deserve. I work hard for that company to help them make profit and they threw me out like yesterdays trash. So, before you act like you know what your talking about, maybe you should think about 560 families and friends I know who will probablly lose what they have. The people are the victims! AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

I shudder to think of the safety of a mine run by strike breakers. Dangerous jobs require professionals that trained to union level standards. When you get a union worker, you know they take their job seriously and are trained to a specific standard. People working in dangerous places like mines or loading docks deserve to get paid fairly, since they put their lives in danger so that companies can profit.

You must remember that employers makes its profit off of peoples backs. This is not about money or willing to work.We were LOCKED OUT which means the company told us not to come to work. This disagreement is about working safely and being responsible. If we sign this contract it would mean that i would have no choice in how many hour a day or week that I would work. Our current contract limits the time work to 16 hrs a day. Under the one this company wants us to sign they could work us as long as they wanted.We are the safest mine in the United States and thats due to the workers that they locked out.

Paychecks come from employers just as profits come on the backs of hard working people, tell your Union reps to keep fighting for what is right, and maybe exploited workers can get some RESPECT. Workers of Local 30 we are with you!

Oh yes. The economy gets bad and the rich see a way to get richer by standing on the backs of hard working American families. "Replacements were brought in to do their jobs." This quote is correct, THEIR JOBS. Not the "replacements" jobs. Where were these replacements before? A job thief deserves a life sentence for stealing.

I find it so unbelievable that members of any union do not realize how they are indentured servants to the cause of the union. No union really wants to better their employee's lives...they just want to make sure they get their 'cut' of your pay. I had a business for 10+ years that was shut down due to a union in the state of California. I was minding my own business with my 12 employees when the union targeted us due to a job we were on. We were threatened, harassed and ran over by the union. I joined so that my crew would not have their car tires slashed, their tools stolen, their lives threatened. But ALL of my employees hated the union due to the excessive costs and little benefits. Health insurance that wouldn't cover anything, dental insurance that was worthless and retirement? What a joke! In this union, if you don't get in the right amount of hours...you don't get retirement. And guess what? The union thugs watch those hours...and prevent many workers from ever getting their quota for retirement. There is no such thing as a good union...just as there is no such thing as a good cancer. They're one and the same. Unions= cancer to our economy.

Isn't it amazing to see what has become of unions over the years. There are now laws that protect the workers. I've read a couple of stories that quote this Craig Merilees character and he's just like the rest of the union thugs who play the drama game to get sympathy from the public. I've seen too many workers get smart and decertify unions. Union membership is down for this reason. Get rid of the union and I'm willing to bet the company will do what they can to prevent a union from returning. It is to the company's benefit...and worker's benefit...to be union-free.

Hold the line you guys and stay strong. These negative comments are comming from people that dont know you and do not know what you are fighting for. Keep your head up and God Bless Boron and those of you fighting to keep my home town alive!

If it wasn't for the union, the guys in the mine wouldn't have been back paid for the 1+million dollars worth of lunches they were forced to work through w/out pay. How would you like to be fired for not having your work badge present on you ant any given time? That is just one of the new rules in the "so called" good contract being offered. The last negotiations meeting the union asked the company just to remove 9 stipulations that blatantly broke the law, they quickly responded "NO". So much for laws, when you re forced to sign a contract that not only would make law breaking legal, but also take away what we already have. I work at us borax as a millwright (one of the most dangerous jobs in the world) I deserve what I work for! Further more How about England capitalizing off of American soil, then taking away from the American man? Anyone who agrees with Rio Tinto Minerals/ US Borax is no better than they are a bona fide TERRORIST!

RioTinto, the mine's owner, DOUBLED its stock value in the past 12 months on the London Stock Exchange.They are the 4th largest publicly listed mining company in the world with a market capitalisation of approximately $34 billion, listed in Fortune's 2008 Global 500 as the 263rd largest company worldwide.Although the company has a long record of producing profits, the company's 2007 acquisition of Alcan for $38.1 billion burdened Rio Tinto with debt.Thus they are (a)exploiting U.S. natural resources by(b)cutting benefits and pay to(c)raise profits and stock values, thereby(d)destroying the life of Boron's citizens,(e)placing 560 workers on unemployment and(f)making both the fired workers and their replacements seek health care through our overburdened public (tax) subsidies.While some will see this as smart business, I see this as continuing to send US dollars overseas while our middle class declines, Boron goes into depression, and we as a society lose. Another piece of Americana, 20-mule-team Borax, sold out to corporate greed. Norma Rae, George Bailey, & Erin Brockovich, we need you!

I like Ron's comments. Do you know how your union representives have blatently lied to you? They act like Boron has made Rio Tinto 3.2 million dollars....so not so. If you get paid $26 an hour and Boron makes $2 an hour, that is just being in business to be in business. Have you ever thought that you are so much trouble (union workers) that they could shut down and concentrate on other mines that are less trouble? I've read some of the union crap and they make you think that it wouldn't be safe to work without a union, but in my experience with Rio Tinto mines 30 miles apart of each other, non union workers make MORE money. It costs a lot to support the union and I don't care what they post on your website, Rio strives to have safe working conditions. You are getting an opportinity to opt out of your cult, make a wage that is fair (I don't think you'd stay in a desert if it weren't), and work RIGHT now, which is what you say you want. Please quit having your children shine flashlights in my bf face as he is leaving in the safety of a bus to get some sleep. It just isn't cool.


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