Asarco, based in Tucson, and mining unions back at the bargaining table | Company
Tucson-based copper producer Asarco LLC and unions representing more than 1,700 Asarco workers in Arizona and Texas are back at the bargaining table for the first time since 2019.
The United Steelworkers bargaining committee and six other unions resumed negotiations with Asarco this week over the terms of a basic contract, the Steelworkers said.
The two sides exchanged proposals during talks from Tuesday to Thursday and reached a tentative agreement on four issues, the union said in an update to members.
“Significant changes have occurred in the industry since the unions and the company last met for negotiations (of the basic labor agreement) at the end of 2019,” the Steelworkers said.
Copper prices have soared since the start of 2020, with spot prices rising from just over $2 in March 2020 to $4 a year later. Copper averaged nearly $4.25 a pound in 2021 and nearly hit $5 in February, before dropping to around $3.50 a pound recently.
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“Our workforce is more valuable than ever across ASARCO’s five properties, and the need to combat wage erosion due to inflation, combined with continuing issues of justice and dignity in the workplace, requires immediate action from management,” the Steelworkers said.
The new talks come as the National Labor Relations Board prepares to open formal hearings in August on a complaint consolidating charges of unfair labor practices and anti-union behavior by Asarco in Arizona and Texas dating back to 2015.
Asarco unions went on strike in October 2019, rejecting the company’s final offer and accusing the company and its Mexican parent company, Grupo Mexico, of bargaining in bad faith.
In July 2020, the unions ended their strike and offered to return to work, while demanding a ruling that Asarco had engaged in unfair labor practices, which would force the company to reinstate the strikers.
More recently, in mid-June, the unions filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Asarco had unlawfully refused to bargain while seeking to withdraw union recognition at its Silver Bell mine west of Marana.
In addition to Silver Bell, Asarco operates the Mission Mine in Sahuarita; the Ray Mine and Hayden smelter in central Arizona; and a refinery in Amarillo, Texas.