Hecla Mining Co. is proposing the company and the United Steelworkers head to arbitration to end a strike that started 11 months ago.
The Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho, employs about 250 miners. Steelworkers Local 5114 will bring the proposal to its membership by March 7, and the union members will decide whether to engage in arbitration, Luke Russell, vice president of external affairs for Hecla, told Bloomberg Law.
The arbitration would be binding, meaning both sides would have to accept the decision of the arbitrator.
The miners had been working under an expired 2010 agreement before the strike started in March 2017.
The company’s proposal to place job assignment responsibilities in the hands of management prompted the strike, the Steelworkers said at the time. It said the change would endanger the lives of the miners. The union isn’t commenting until its members vote on the arbitration proposal, it said Feb. 21.
Russell called the issue “a big point of dispute.” Under the current policy the senior, most-qualified miner picks team members and decides where they will work, he said.
If Local 5114 members vote to go forward with arbitration, the union and Hecla will bring their previous contract proposals to a panel of arbitrators, Russell said. He called it a “winner take all” decision.
The arbitrators will consider a proposal put forward by the company in December as well as the union’s suggestion that it return to the terms of the 2010 contract.
Lucky Friday produces silver, lead, and zinc.