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USW resists Asarco’s demands for concessions

13 November, 2013Since June, the United Steelworkers (USW) and its partner unions have been locked in contract negotiations with Asarco, a subsidiary of the multinational mining corporation Grupo Mexico, with little progress on economic issues and no end in sight.

The unions represent nearly 2,000 hourly employees at Asarco’s American mines, smelters, and refineries spread across four locations in Arizona and one in Texas. As their previous agreement was set to expire on July 1, workers have remained on the job while negotiations proceed with a contract extension subject to a 15-day notice to terminate.

Asarco’s most recent proposal demands far-reaching cuts to the existing contract, including freezing the pension plan, cutting medical benefits and eliminating future retiree healthcare. Asarco also wants to reduce the copper price bonus, a negotiated benefit that allows workers to share in the company’s success.

“Grupo Mexico is an international corporation, so their refusal to bargain fairly requires a global response,” said IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina. “IndustriALL stands behind the USW, and we ask any individual or organization with dealings with Grupo to call on the company to treat its American workers with the justice and dignity they deserve.”

The company’s most recent economic proposals are the latest in a long string of demands for concessions on nearly every issue from random drug testing to harsh new attendance policies. 

“These actions do not surprise us, given Grupo Mexico’s permanent campaign against our union,” wrote the National Executive Committee of the Mexican labor union Los Mineros in a letter of support to the USW.

Over the last eight years, Los Mineros has also struggled in negotiations with Grupo Mexico, including the company’s violent response to strikes over health and safety conditions in Taxco, Sombrerete and Cananea.

More than a dozen sections of Los Mineros also wrote letters of support, and the unions at the Southern Peru Copper Corporation, also owned by Grupo Mexico, have similarly expressed their solidarity.