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John Hollenhorst ReportingA bitter dispute involving a coal mine affiliated with the Kingston polygamy clan has entered a strange new phase. The workers voted in a unionizing election and nearly every vote is being challenged as improper.
Coal miners in general are well-paid, partly because their work is so inherently dangerous. That's why some workers at the Kingston polygamy clan's Co-Op mine say they need a union. The pro-union workers are mostly Mexican Nationals. They say they're severely underpaid, and work in unsafe conditions.
Bill Estrada, Union Supporter: “Absolutely, three of the last eight fatalities in Utah have been at Co-Op.”
Co-op's manager says the mine's safety is overseen by MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Charles Reynolds, Mine Manager: “In fact our safety record with MSHA is one of the better records in the state.”
The long-running labor dispute led to a showdown late last week; workers voted on whether to unionize. To say it's left things in a muddle is a severe understatement. For starters, the company fired dozens of workers just before the election.
Bill Estrada: “I think the whole thing has been stacked against us.”
Charles Reynolds: “It had nothing to do with their union affiliation or any kind of union activity.”
Union sources say 142 workers voted, but only seven votes are unchallenged. The company says the votes of 34 fired workers should be thrown out. Union people say 101 votes cast by relatives of the Kingston polygamy clan should not be counted.
Bill Estrada: “Absolutely not. They are completely tied to the ownership of the mind. They are related by blood and marriage to the owners of the mine.”
It will be up to the National Labor Relations Board to sort all this out and decide if there should be a union. The ballots remain secret until the validity of each voter is decided. It's expected to be at least several weeks and perhaps months before all the voter eligibility issues are decided.