Ending an impasse that began in January, 75% of 570 locked-out miners voted Saturday to approve a six-year contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Rio Tinto Borax ending a lockout that began on January 31st.
Rio Tinto spokeswoman Susan Keefe said the new agreement would go into effect today, which is good news for the community of Boron, population 2,000, which has been home for the former U.S. Borax for 80 years.
U.S. Borax used teams of twenty mules in the early 1880s to haul borates from the company’s original mine in Death Valley more than 165 miles to the nearest railroad junction in Mojave. The Borax 20 Mule Team® brand is an internationally recognized name for borate products. Its Death Valley holdings became the foundation of the Death Valley National Park.
The operation is the second largest producer of the world’s borates.
Workers are scheduled to return to their jobs Tuesday, union spokesman Craig Merrilees said in a statement. Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said, “The strength of the Rio Tinto workers and their families coupled with the support of working people in Los Angeles was instrumental in achieving justice and preserving these jobs as good middle class jobs.”
The ratification of the contract means workers will receive an annual 2.5% wage increase in each year of the six-year contract. Workers will keep their protections against discrimination and favoritism in promotions, shifts, scheduling and overtime assignments. Current employees will continue to receive retirement pensions and newly hired employees would receive 401 (k) plans, according to the AFL-CIO Blog.
Workers will also receive a bonus of $5,000 each.
In a statement, Rio Tinto Borax General Manager of Operations Dean Gehring said, “We have reached a fair agreement that allows us to improve work practices and productivity so we can keep the business competitive throughout the life of the operation, potentially another 70 years.”