From the Wolf Watershed Educational Project

[+] CLASP - Unionists Back Mining Moratorium Bill,
Oppose Company Pressure Tactics
[+] Union Resolutions Against the Crandon Mine

Committee of Labor Against Sulfide Pollution (CLASP)

Unions and Crandon mine 5/99
Unionists Back Mining Moratorium, Oppose Wise Use Conf. 9/97
Unionists Object to Exxon Tv Ad Campaign
For more information on-line
What you Can Do

Feb. 19, 2001 letter -" Dear Brothers and Sisters at MOZAL, in Beluluane, Mozambique,
        We send you greetings of solidarity in your struggle against a common adversary, Billiton Plc..."

Unions and Crandon mine

Committee of Labor Against Sulfide Pollution (CLASP)
5019 West Fillmore, Milwaukee WI 53219
Tel. (414) 543-8474

TO: State AFL-CIO, All Central Labor Councils in Wisconsin, USWA Sub-District 2, Milwaukee Labor Press, Racine Labor, Union Labor News, other labor publications and union bodies.

Brothers and Sisters of Wisconsin labor bodies,

The Canadian mining company Rio Algom has recently again attempted to enlist labor support for its metallic sulfide mine proposal near Crandon. A previous attempt by Rio Algom and its former partner Exxon in 1997 was countered by numerous resolutions by Central Labor Councils and locals against the mine, and in support of a sulfide mining moratorium (see Early in 1998, Rio Algom bought out Exxon's 50% share in the project, and renamed its subsidiary the Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC); Exxon still retains rights to 3.75% of the royalties, and $5 million if production begins.

After a single NMC presentation, and without an opportunity to hear opposing views, presidents in attendance at a USWA Sub-District 2 (Wisc.) Presidents' Meeting recently adopted a resolution by a majority vote supporting NMC's proposed changes in the Crandon project. NMC also made a presentation to USWA Local 1527 in February, where NMC was acknowledged as the author of the resolution. NMC Spokesperson Dale Alberts tried to leave a strong impression that local citizens' and tribal concerns had been satisfied by the new mine proposals. Yet when informed of NMC's overtures to unions, and how his position had been misrepresented to union members, Menominee Tribal Chair Apesanahkwat issued a press release denouncing NMC's tactics. Since serious questions remained, opposing views were voiced at the Local's March meeting, when retired local CWA president Bob Schmitz and current Translators' Guild member Kira Henschel shed much light on sulfide mining, and Rio Algom's sordid history in the industry.

NMC's overtures are particularly ironic in light of the highly adversarial relationship between the USWA and Rio Algom:

  • The lung cancer deaths of many USWA miners at the Elliot Lake, Ontario, uranium mines in the 1950s-80s;
  • The recent layoffs of USWA Local 7619 members at the Highland Valley, British Columbia, mine;
  • Continuing layoffs of USWA Local 1114 members at Milwaukee's P&H Mining, a major supporter of the Crandon mine; According to a recent Associated Press article, NMC topped the list of highest-spending Wisconsin lobbyists in 1997 and 1998, with $1.5 million and 4,624 hours. The key NMC ally Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce-- no friend of unions--was third on the list with $1.1 million and 15,440 hours.
We see as a model the recent alliance between Steelworkers and environmentalists against the Maxxam Corp., which has decimated California redwoods and been virulently anti- union at its struck Kaiser Aluminum plants in the U.S.

CLASP would again like to thank the Central Labor Councils and local unions that have passed resolutions against the Crandon mine, and for the Sulfide Mining Moratorium Law:

  • Greater Green Bay Labor Council AFL-CIO,
  • Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO,
  • La Crosse AFL-CIO Council ,
  • South-Central Federation of Labor AFL-CIO,
  • Wisconsin Federation of Teachers,
  • Green Bay Building and Construction Trades Council ,
  • Racine County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council,
  • USWA Local 1527 (Milwaukee),
  • UAW Local 72 (Kenosha),
  • CWA Locals 4603 (Milwaukee), 4620 (Green Bay), 4621 (Appleton), 4622 (Oshkosh), and 4623 (Fond du Lac);
  • AFSCME / WSEU--Local 82 AFL-CIO (Milwaukee),
  • AFT Local 3220 AFL-CIO (Madison), and others.
We do not know how widespread NMC's efforts to gain union approval have been, so we are both asking for your help in monitoring this activity, and also offering our help to provide another perspective to balance NMC's one-sided campaign of disinformation. We would appreciate any information that you or any affiliated labor bodies may have on NMC's labor-related activities. If any labor body has been approached by NMC, and would like an opportunity to hear an alternate view, please contact us at (414) 543-8474 to arrange a presentation, and log on

          In Solidarity,
          for the Committee of Labor Against
          Sulfide Pollution (CLASP),
Gerry Gunderson
Local 1527 USWA member
Milwaukee (414) 543-8474

Bob Schmitz
Local 5520 CWA president (ret.)
Green Bay (920) 499-3075

Debi McNutt
Local 2412 AFSCME member
Madison (608) 246-2256

Union affiliations for identification purposes only.


The Committee of Labor Against Sulfide Pollution (CLASP) is joining an environmental picket and press conference on Wednesday, September 17 at 10 am in front of the Concourse Hotel in Madison (1 W. Dayton). The press conference is in support of the Sulfide Mining Moratorium bill currently in front of the Assembly Environment Committee, and is in response to the "Wise Use" pro-mining conference at the Concourse. Among those speaking will be Gerry Gunderson, a Milwaukee member of United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 1527, and Bob Schmitz, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 5520 in Green Bay.

Milwaukee Steelworker Gerry Gunderson says "Wisconsin labor unions do not speak with a single voice on the mining issue. Our group, however, represents a viewpoint that is growing across the state. Union locals and councils around Wisconsin have been passing resolutions against the Crandon mine, based on Exxon and Rio Algom's past blatant disregard for workers' health, safety, and environment ." AFSCME Local 2412 member Debi McNutt said, "We feel that jobs should not be pitted against the environment, and that Northern Wisconsin's tourism-based jobs need to be protected from an experimental mine near the Wolf River."

CLASP is contacting union locals, councils, and federations about the issue of sulfide mining. Gunderson said that thousands of CLASP brochures were passed out to Milwaukee unionists at the September 1 Labor Fest. He added that similar information has been passed out to other Steelworker locals in Milwaukee.

The main pro-mining "Wise Use" groups are People For Wisconsin (PFW) and the Coalition for Fair Regulation (CFR)-- the latter with a board made up of industry executives--and they have both been contacting unions. Gunderson said, "If Wise Use leaders are interested in making an alliance with workers, we ask them where they stand on the main labor issues of our day. Where do they stand on universal health care, equal pay and benefits for W-2 workers, OSHA reform, a Living Wage, and other issues? Are they interested in joining hands with labor, or only in using us?".

Former CWA Local 5520 President Bob Schmitz said, "The Wise Use groups are a transparent attempt by the mining companies to influence Wisconsin citizens in general--and labor unions in particular-- in support of a corporate agenda." Schmitz added, "The Crandon mine would not bring high-paying jobs to Wisconsin workers. If the mine opens, the high-paying jobs would go to outside technicians. If the mine is not opened, the ore body and the mining equipment plants would not leave Wisconsin."




The second TV ad in the Crandon Mining Co. public relations campaign has Dennis Bosanac, president of United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 1114 in Milwaukee saying (with his union seal in the background):

    "I hear that some legislators in Madison want to ban mining in Wisconsin. Ha!" That's like asking over 10,000 working people to stop breathing. Don't they know that thousands and thousands of us work in jobs that depend on mining? Don't they know how important mining has been and will be to Wisconsin? We want to be a part of it. Those high-paying jobs belong in Wisconsin, not someplace else... Working Together for the Future. The Crandon Mining Company."
    UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 22, the rank-and-file membership of USWA Local 1114 voted out their president, Dennis Bosanac, who had supported the Crandon Mining Company in the TV ad.

There are some multiple problems with this short ad. First, it never mentions the apparently dirty words "Exxon" or "Rio Algom"--the two co-owners of Crandon Mining Co (CMC). Second, the Mining Moratorium Bill addresses only metallic sulfide mining--not mining in general--and only denies permits until one safely closed mine can be documented. Third, if the Crandon mine is not opened, potential jobs in the mine will not travel out-of-state, because the ore cannot be moved. Fourth, the "400 high-paying jobs" mentioned in the first CMC TV ad will almost certainly go to outside technicians, who after six months in Wisconsin will suddenly become "local" residents (as at the Ladysmith mine). Fifth, mining-related manufacturing jobs in southeastern Wisconsin will still receive equipment contracts from outside Wisconsin, even if the Crandon mine never happens. However, the ad's MAJOR flaw is the representation of the United Steelworkers as supporters of Exxon and Rio Algom..


The USWA has in reality been in the forefront AGAINST Rio Algom, on the issue of worker health and safety at the Elliot Lake uranium mines in Canada. Former Northeast Ontario USWA Area Coordinator Homer Seguin says "Rio Algom has a terrible track record in terms of protection of the environment and protection of workers in the workplace." According to the book "Plunder!" by Roger Moody (pp. 127-30), the USWA "expressed deep concern over the health effects of radiation from the early days of mining." The Ontario Workmen's Compensation Board reported in 1969 that 16 out of 20 deaths of Elliot Lake miners were the result of lung cancer. The USWA showed that Rio Algom had consistently underestimated hazards by deliberately under-reading radiation levels. USWA National Director for Health and Safety Kenneth Valentine wrote in 1980 that the companies at Elliot Lake "should have their license revoked" since "untold numbers of people have died." Workers in a Rio Algom thorium-separation plant were exposed to up to 40 times the recommended radiation level. The Royal Commission on the Health and Safety of Workers in Mines in 1976 showed abnormally high levels of lung cancers among Elliot Lake workers, from both dust exposure (silicosis) and radiation. The Ontario Ministry of Health in 1972 reported that these lung cancer death rates exceeded the average population rate by 300 to 500 percent. Moody writes, "the USWA have probably been the most vocal objectors to company practices."


Exxon also has a poor track record in miner safety. In 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Center said that Exxon "had the nation's overall worst corporate mine safety record among the nation's largest 20 underground coal producers," according to its fifth annual mine safety ranking. (Exxon was also at or near the bottom of the list in 1987, 1988 and 1989). The report was compiled by J. Davitt McAteer, the former Solicitor for Safety for the United Mine Workers of America, who in 1994 became the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. In two Exxon-owned giant mines in Illinois, the report states, 7.8 miners out of every 100 full time miners suffered an intermediate (fatal or "serious") accident during 1989. "The numbers are staggering when you consider the resources that Exxon is capable of applying to the problem," said McAteer. He added, "the management of Exxon has simply disregarded the lives of the people who work in their mines and continues to recklessly pursue profits before people... Much as it did after the Valdez disaster, Exxon has thumbed its corporate nose at the miners and their safety concerns."


In 1995, the Wisconsin Review Commission issued its "Report on the Track Records of Exxon and Rio Algom." The Commission citizen panel included labor representative Bill Neuhaus, former president of United Auto Workers Local 1007 in Racine/Union Grove. The report stated, "Exxon invested at least $404 million in the $5 billion oil shale project in Colorado, only to withdraw in 1982, before the project was planned to begin. Over 2000 workers found out from news reports that they were laid off. Other workers who had been promised jobs arrived to find out that the jobs no longer existed... Two other cases in Nova Scotia point to the riskiness of metallic mine projects. Exxon's Esso Minerals opened the Gay Mills lead-zinc mine in 1979, but closed it after only two years due to shaft flooding, and many workers were laid off... Rio Algom raised CAN$157.5 million in 1982 to acquire the East Kemptville zinc deposit. Though the mine was projected to run for 17 years, production halted after only five years when tin prices fell dramatically." The Commission also pointed to the the Army repression of labor unions at Exxon's El Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, where troops and armored carriers were deployed against strikers three times, and union leaders were fired or arrested.


On February 7, the Wolf Watershed Educational Project wrote to Dennis Bosanac, "We understand your intentions of helping to bring mining jobs to Wisconsin... Without having access to this information, we understand why you would lend your name to the efforts of the Crandon Mining Company. However, given the hostility of Exxon and Rio Algom toward unions, and toward worker health and safety, we urge you to rethink your role. It is not to late to withdraw your participation in the public relations campaign, or to clarify your opinions in a press statement." Bosanac so far has replied "I wish I'd known that," before making the ad deal with CMC public relations director Dale Albers. Bosanac is now looking into the situation further. Materials have also been faxed to his superior, USWA District 32 Director Bob Glasner, in Brookfield.

Union locals and federations are urged to IMMEDIATELY pass resolutions against the Crandon mine, not only based on its threat to workers' favorite fishing spots, but on the anti-union track records of the companies, and the boom-and-bust economy they threaten to bring to Forest County. Some union locals have already addressed the issue. Crandon Mining Co. officials have explicitly refused to promise union members that the Crandon mine would be a union shop! Mining opponents include many union members; the president of the Wolf River Watershed Alliance, Bob Schmitz, is a former Communications Workers of America Local 5520 President from Green Bay. It takes some nerve to put forth a union local president from Milwaukee - who evidently is unaware of the positions his own union has taken on the companies he is supporting - to state the case for the Crandon mine. A third TV ad will be aired soon.

For more information on-line:

Wolf Watershed Educational Project -
Socio-Economic Impacts of the Crandon Mine

(Hotline 1-800-445-8615)
Send copies of any resolutions
(P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382)

Wisconsin Review Commission--
Economic Track Records of Exxon and Rio Algom

Rivers Alliance of Wisconsin--
Mining and Rural Poverty and Poverty

"Exxon's claims about job creation based on this mine are fantastically inflated. In fact, most workers and union leaders are more concerned about what the mine could do to future generations of workers who hope to enjoy the pristine Northwoods."
              Jim Cavanaugh, president,
              South- Central Federation of Labor
              AFL-CIO (Madison)

  1. Pass a resolution in your local against the Crandon mine and for a Sulfide Mining Moratorium. Send copies to your Assembly rep, the media, and the addresses below.

  2. Educate members of your local by getting and copying the CLASP brochure, and show videos on the Rio Algom labor track record or the Crandon mine. Borrow the videos from the contacts below.
  3. Call your Assembly rep toll-free at 1-800-362-9472, or write (c/o Assembly, Madison WI 53702). Attend hearings to speak for the Moratorium Bill, identifying yourself visibly as a union member. Write letters to newspapers.


Gerry Gunderson (Local 1527, USWA)
5019 West Fillmore, Milwaukee WI 53219
(414) 543-8474

Bob Schmitz (Local 5520 CWA ex-president)
N5710 Rose Lake Lane, White Lake WI 54491
(715) 484-8121 / (414) 499-3075
Debi McNutt (Local 2412 AFSCME member)
Wolf Watershed Educational Project,
c/o Midwest Treaty Network
P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382
Hotline: (800) 445-8615; E-mail:
Web site:
Tax-deductible donations to "MTN/PC Foundation"


5019 West Fillmore, Milwaukee WISCONSIN 53219 USA
Tel. (414) 543-8474     Fax (608) 246-2256 E-mail:


February 19, 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters at MOZAL,
in Beluluane, Mozambique,

We send you greetings of solidarity in your struggle against a common adversary, Billiton Plc. Our committee is comprised of unionists who have been engaged in a fight for social, environmental and economic justice regarding Billiton's attempt to mine in an extremely sensitive area of Wisconsin, USA.

Billiton is the latest in a series of companies engaged in the Crandon copper/zinc mining venture next to the Mole Lake Chippewa Indian Reservation and near the Wolf River in northern Wisconsin. Since the 1970s, attempts to mine here have also been made by Exxon, Phelps Dodge, and Rio Algom, only to be rebuffed through the combined efforts of local citizens, Indigenous peoples, hunters and fishers, labor unionists, students, educators, and others.

As unionists, we consider mining corporations´┐Ż promises of safe, well-paid jobs, concerns for the environment, respect for Native American (Indian) people and regard for communities to be at odds with their documented histories. With states, corporations and media increasingly viewing their missions as one and the same, we see that unions must go beyond their traditional (and worthy) goals of fighting for decent wages, hours and working conditions. We must also join with others in their efforts to create a just world. We must ensure that the needs of people precede demands for profits.

A "globalized" economy demands a response from those affected by "globalization." They would have us compete in a race to the bottom. We see ourselves cooperating to lift living standards and protecting the environment for everyone. It is in that spirit that we support your fight. The old labor slogan is as appropriate now as it ever has been: "An injury to one is an injury to all."

If we can be of some help, please call on us at (414) 543-8474, telefax (608) 246-2256; or log on the CLASP web page at . For information on Billiton's Crandon mine project, log on the Midwest Treaty Network webpage at .

In Solidarity,
for the Committee of Labor
Against Sulfide Pollution (CLASP),

Gerry Gunderson, Milwaukee
Local 1527 United Steelworkers
of America (USWA) member

Debi McNutt, Madison
Local 2412 American Federation of State,
County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) member

Bob Schmitz, Green Bay
Local 5520 Communications Workers
of America (CWA) president (retired)

[Union affiliations for identification purposes only]

OTM Maputo;
CUSO Maputo;
Ambassador of Mozambique to the United States, Washington DC;
Dumisa Ntuli, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA);
Marc Gonsalves, Senior Manager Corporate Affairs, Billiton Plc, London;
Mozal aluminum smelter, Belluane, Mozambique.

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