Union members from Idaho mine reject agreement with company

December 17, 2019 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Members of a union representing workers at an Idaho mine have rejected a tentative agreement that could have ended a two-and-half year strike.

United Steelworkers Local 5114 and Hecla Mining Company announced a tentative agreement in November that required ratification by a majority of union members, The Spokesman-Review reported Monday.

A third party counted 157 ballots Monday finding that 80 were against the proposed contract, union officials said.

United Steelworkers represent about 200 workers at the Lucky Friday Mine near Mullan, Idaho, officials said.

United Steelworkers must notify Hecla Mining and return to the bargaining table, said Timothy Swallow, a union representative.

Members have argued the ability for lead miners to pick their own work crew, which has been a tradition at the 77-year-old mine, union representatives said.

Under the tentative agreement, employees were expected to return in stages following a mine inspection conducted by individuals appointed by both the company and the union, representatives said. The agreement included self-picked crews.

Hecla Mining was not immediately available for comment.

Union members went on strike in March 2017 because of proposed changes to work assignments, health care benefits, vacation scheduling and bonus pay tied to silver prices, representatives said.

The strike cost the company more than $14 million last year, a company report said. Silver production at the mine decreased by about 670,000 ounces (19,000 kilograms) since the strike started in 2017, a report said.