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Wednesday, February 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Lucky Friday miners picket over stalled contract talks

Miners in the Silver Valley picketed Monday outside the Wallace office of Hecla Mining Co. to protest lack of progress on a new contract for about 250 employees at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan.

The previous six-year contract between the Coeur d’Alene-based company and United Steelworkers Local 5114 expired at the end of April. Negotiations have been drawn out for over four months.

Both sides met again Monday with a federal mediator to try to move forward.

About 30 miners and their family members spent Monday on the picket line, said Bruce Baraby, an employee who helped organize it.

“They have not offered to budge hardly at all,” Baraby said. “People here feel they are trying to get rid of the union.”

The union objects to Hecla’s proposed changes to workers’ health care benefits, shift and vacation scheduling, and bonus pay, among other proposals.

“They basically are attacking us all the way across the board,” Baraby said. “We’re not wanting to take a cut in any way, but we’re not really looking for anything, either. We just want to try to keep what we have.”

Luke Russell, vice president for external affairs for Hecla, could not be reached for comment Monday. Russell previously said Hecla is seeking more flexibility for safety and economic viability as the company embraces new technologies and digs deeper into the mine.

Hecla recently finished digging its No. 4 shaft, which reaches almost 2 miles underground, and expects to begin production in it by the end of this year, Russell said.

“What we would like in the contract is more flexibility on getting the right people in the right place for keeping the mine safe and productive,” Russell said in a June interview.

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