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Labor Against Sulfide Mining

Unions and Crandon Mine

By the Committee of Labor Against Sulfide Pollution (CLASP) - May 1999

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. editor's note: this article was published almost 15 years ago. We post it here to show an example of rank and file green unionism. There is now a Facebook Page for Labor Against Sulfide Mining.

To: State AFL-CIO, All Central Labor Councils in Wisconsin, USWA Sub-District 2, Milwaukee Labor Press, Racine Labor, Union Labor News, other labor publications and union bodies.

Brothers and Sisters of Wisconsin labor bodies,

The Canadian mining company Rio Algom has recently again attempted to enlist labor support for its metallic sulfide mine proposal near Crandon. A previous attempt by Rio Algom and its former partner Exxon in 1997 was countered by numerous resolutions by Central Labor Councils and locals against the mine, and in support of a sulfide mining moratorium...Early in 1998, Rio Algom bought out Exxon's 50% share in the project, and renamed its subsidiary the Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC); Exxon still retains rights to 3.75% of the royalties, and $5 million if production begins.

After a single NMC presentation, and without an opportunity to hear opposing views, presidents in attendance at a USWA Sub-District 2 (Wisc.) Presidents' Meeting recently adopted a resolution by a majority vote supporting NMC's proposed changes in the Crandon project. NMC also made a presentation to USWA Local 1527 in February, where NMC was acknowledged as the author of the resolution. NMC Spokesperson Dale Alberts tried to leave a strong impression that local citizens' and tribal concerns had been satisfied by the new mine proposals. Yet when informed of NMC's overtures to unions, and how his position had been misrepresented to union members, Menominee Tribal Chair Apesanahkwat issued a press release denouncing NMC's tactics. Since serious questions remained, opposing views were voiced at the Local's March meeting, when retired local CWA president Bob Schmitz and current Translators' Guild member Kira Henschel shed much light on sulfide mining, and Rio Algom's sordid history in the industry.

NMC's overtures are particularly ironic in light of the highly adversarial relationship between the USWA and Rio Algom:

  • The lung cancer deaths of many USWA miners at the Elliot Lake, Ontario, uranium mines in the 1950s-80s;
  • The recent layoffs of USWA Local 7619 members at the Highland Valley, British Columbia, mine;
  • Continuing layoffs of USWA Local 1114 members at Milwaukee's P&H Mining, a major supporter of the Crandon mine; According to a recent Associated Press article, NMC topped the list of highest-spending Wisconsin lobbyists in 1997 and 1998, with $1.5 million and 4,624 hours. The key NMC ally Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce-- no friend of unions--was third on the list with $1.1 million and 15,440 hours.

We see as a model the recent alliance between Steelworkers and environmentalists against the Maxxam Corp., which has decimated California redwoods and been virulently anti- union at its struck Kaiser Aluminum plants in the U.S.

CLASP would again like to thank the Central Labor Councils and local unions that have passed resolutions against the Crandon mine, and for the Sulfide Mining Moratorium Law:

  • Greater Green Bay Labor Council AFL-CIO,
  • Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO,
  • La Crosse AFL-CIO Council ,
  • South-Central Federation of Labor AFL-CIO,
  • Wisconsin Federation of Teachers,
  • Green Bay Building and Construction Trades Council ,
  • Racine County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council,
  • USWA Local 1527 (Milwaukee),
  • UAW Local 72 (Kenosha),
  • CWA Locals 4603 (Milwaukee), 4620 (Green Bay), 4621 (Appleton), 4622 (Oshkosh), and 4623 (Fond du Lac);
  • AFSCME / WSEU--Local 82 AFL-CIO (Milwaukee),
  • AFT Local 3220 AFL-CIO (Madison), and others.

We do not know how widespread NMC's efforts to gain union approval have been, so we are both asking for your help in monitoring this activity, and also offering our help to provide another perspective to balance NMC's one-sided campaign of disinformation. We would appreciate any information that you or any affiliated labor bodies may have on NMC's labor-related activities...

The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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