TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Two holidays; Thanksgiving and Christmas, have come and gone since ASARCO workers went on strike.
Even on the 77th day of striking, there were no new talks with the copper mining company in sight.
But Sunday brought some “big name” support for the men and women fighting for what they believe is a fair contract.
James Hoffa, the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (representing 1.4 million workers in North America), made a special visit to the picket line in Sahuarita.
“This company is owned by a Mexican company that’s exploiting the American workers,” said Hoffa. “They haven’t had a raise in 10 years … and this is from a company; ASARCO, that made a billion dollars last year.”
Strikers say they were insulted by ASARCO’s ‘Last, Best and Final’ offer that froze pensions and doubled the out-of-pocket expenditures for healthcare.
Hoffa, joined by local and state lawmakers, wasn’t just on the picket lines to re-energize the fight. He brought a personal message to strikers, assuring them Teamsters would be putting extra pressure on legislators in the new year.
“2020 is going to be a great year for workers. We’ve got all kinds of great things going on, we’ve got a national election and we’ve got to talk about workers,” he said.
In Arizona, several bills are set to be introduced in January, aimed at protecting workers and their families.
For many, Hoffa’s visit was a morale booster.
“It’s almost like Santa Claus came twice in one week!” said Karla Schumann, the Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 104. “When you have the General President of the International Teamsters show up, you know you’re supported.”
“It’s totally helping us out, making sure we are heard and not left out here in the middle of the desert,” said Roy Robles, an ASARCO worker on strike.
Robles can be found on the picket line five days a week.
“It’s cold, it rained a lot last week. It’s tough seeing a lot of brothers that have crossed,” he said. “Of course, it’s hard to make ends meet, with the holidays around, it was tough.”
What keeps Robles going is knowing this battle is bigger than himself.
“It’s for labor across America,” he said. “Because right now, corporations are so greedy it’s unreal.”
“This is a national strike,” said Hoffa. “Justice here means justice everywhere!”
Teamsters is just one of seven unions involved in the ASARCO strike. More than 1,700 workers are currently on the picket lines in Arizona and Texas.
Schumann says negotiations with ASARCO went quiet mid-November.
“When you stand in silence, it sends a pretty loud message: they don’t care,” she said. “[But] the quieter they stay, the louder we get.”
We reached out to ARSARCO for comment and haven’t heard back yet.