Lucky Friday Strike ends as union members vote to accept proposal from Hecla Mining Company
The labor strike at Hecla Mining’s Lucky Friday Mine has reportedly come to an end as members of the United Steelworkers Local 5114 voted to accept a proposal from Hecla Mining to end the standoff that lasted for more than two and a half years.
The Spokesman Review reported that the United Steelworkers Local 5114 posted the news on its Facebook page, writing, “By a vote of 86 to 78, the proposal has been accepted. The strike is over!”
On Dec. 16, the USW Local 5114 rejected an agreement reached in November by union and company negotiating committees that would have ended the strike at the mine.
Following that vote, Hecla announced plans to ramp up to full production by the end of 2020 by accelerating the hiring of new employees and contractors. At the time, the company said it remained open to bargaining in good faith with the union.
The union posted via Facebook that it met with Hecla in December and brought forth members’ concerns in a five-hour bargaining session. The two parties discussed silver price premium plans, picket line terminations and the return-to-work physical and essential functions test, among other things.
“We are pleased that the union has ratified the collective bargaining agreement at Lucky Friday and are expected to return to work. While this has been a challenging time for the mine and the local community, we believe the return of the workforce will help it reach full production by year-end 2020 and help the Silver Valley community,” Phillips S. Baker, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Hecla said in a statement.
Luke Russel, vice president – external affairs for Hecla told Mining Engineering that the end of the strike is good for the employees, the company and the community. He said Hecla will “begin a call back of employees based on our production needs.”
The Spokesman Review reported that among the return-to-work stipulations is that Hecla provide the first group of union employees return-to-work notices within five days of contract ratification. Each employee will have 31 days to complete a physical and a drug screen and receive a $1,000 signing bonus. Employees also will retain seniority accrued since March 2017.
During the strike, the mine remained in limited production and in 2019, it was awarded the Sentinels of Safety Award from the National Mining Association.
“We are pleased that the full workforce will become part of that new safety and production culture,” said Russell. “The future is bright and we continue to look at ways to improve our mining methods to the keep the mine safe and productive and we welcome our miners back into that culture.”
As a whole, Hecla reported 22 percent higher silver and 4 percent higher gold production for 2019, which is the highest gold production in Hecla’s history. Among the 2019 highlights, Hecla reported silver production of 12.6 million ounces, an increase of 22 percent and gold production of 272,873 ounces.
Of the 12.6 million ounces of silver generated, 9.9 million ounces was produced by the Greens Creek Mine — the highest total since Hecla acquired full ownership in 2008. Greens Creek also produced and 56,624 ounces of gold in 2019. From the total, 2.7 million ounces of silver and 15,356 ounces of gold were produced in the last three months of the year.
The company reported year-end cash and cash equivalents of approximately $62 million.