- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) - Miners in a southwestern New Mexico county once famous for its labor activism have voted against participating in the union.

The United Steelworkers Union members at Chino Mine in Hurley, New Mexico, recently voted 236 to 83 against participating in the union in a decertification election, the Silver City Sun-News reports (https://goo.gl/L7ktPx).

Grant County, where the 1954 “Salt of the Earth” movie based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine was filmed, now won’t have union representation at any mine within the county.

The decertification vote was brought about by one man who began a successful petition to end the union.

The union’s contract was set to expire in early November, making this an “open-ended” period in which a decertification election could determine whether union employees would continue to be represented.

Results were announced last week.

The Steelworkers Union represented 360 Chino Mine employees.

Eric Kinneberg, a spokesman for Freeport McMoRan, the Phoenix-based company which owns the mine, says officials were pleased with employee participation in the vote.

“We respect our employees’ right to choose their representation in the workplace and are pleased in the high level of employee participation in the process and their focus on safety during this period,” Kinneberg said via email about the vote.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election, will make the voting results official within 10 days of the election date.

Bayard city councilor and former mine worker Zeke Santa Maria said he was “very surprised” by the vote and called it a mistake. The 72-year-old was a mine worker for 22 years and said his father also worked for the mine.

Santa Maria said he was 6 years old when the movie “Salt of the Earth” was filmed, and his dad was cast for a part in the film.

“In time it’ll work against them,” Santa Maria said. “The union did a lot for this county.”

“Salt of the Earth” was blacklisted in the U.S. during Cold War retribution against communist filmmakers and gained an underground following more than a decade later when it was finally shown. In the film, Mexican-American miners barred by federal law from striking against a zinc company were replaced on the picket lines by their wives.

The film became a feminist and Chicano Studies classic, and has been the subject at conferences over race, miner safety and the role of women.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com

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