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Union votes to continue Lucky Friday miner strike in Mullan, Idaho

Posted at 9:13 AM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 11:25:59-05

SPOKANE — Union members voted Monday afternoon to reject the latest offer from the Hecla Mining Company Monday afternoon.

The vote failed by just nine votes and miners will continue the two and a half year long strike. Almost 190 miners could vote and 157 ballots were mailed back to the union.

Hecla Mining Company, which operates the Lucky Friday silver mine in Mullan, Idaho, announced in November that that negotiating committees between the company and the miners’ union had reached a tentative agreement to end the strike.

The agreement then headed to the roughly 250 members of the United Steel Workers 5114 Union, which is headquartered in Mullan.

Dan Daiker, a mechanic in the mine, indicated he was ready to get back to work. "It was a decent proposal. It was better than what they implemented," he said.

KREM TV in Spokane has been told some miners have since moved out of the Silver Valley to take other jobs. A union rep said they'll now go back to negotiating with Hecla.

USW 5114 posted an update about negotiations on its Facebook page on Sunday.

“The votes for the latest proposal will be counted tomorrow, December 16th, beginning at 3 pm. Anyone having questions, concerns, or suspicions about the counting process is welcome to come and observe. USW Local 338 union hall, Spokane, Washington,” the post reads.

The miners voted to strike in 2017 following an impasse between the union and Hecla over contract negotiations. At the time, USW 5114 accused Hecla of proposing unfair labor practices.

Notably, miners took issue with proposed changes to work schedules, benefits and other factors, including a bidding system that allowed senior miners to pick work teams and bid on work assignments. Hecla at the time had said that the changes were necessary to keep Lucky Friday profitable and that the bid system was outdated.

Hecla said in November that both sides have since reached a treaty on several issues.

Luke Russell, Hecla's vice-president for external affairs, said the tentative agreement would see Lucky Friday adopt a "progression system" regarding work assignments. Under the system, the company would be able to assign where and with whom miners work, Russell said. Miners would then build wages as they obtain skillsets.

Hecla reported at the end of 2018 at the strike had cost the company $14.6 million.

Since then, though, Lucky Friday has since seen some increased production since the miners first went on strike. Salaried workers and a change in production mode were responsible for the increases, Russell said.