New York Salt Miners’ Contract Expires May 31
The contract for workers at the Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. (SCIH) Morton Salt facility in Silver Springs, New York will expire on May 31. The plant is another salt evaporation facility owned by SCIH where no contract has yet been agreed to with their unionized workforce. The workers are represented by United Steelworkers of America Local 625.
The Silver Springs plant has roughly 150 workers and produces salt from brine wells. The working class of Silver Springs has been extracting salt at the facility for 139 years. Silver Springs, New York has a population of fewer than 900 people and as a result, everyone there is connected to Morton Salt — either because they work there, used to work there, know someone who works there or know someone who used to work there — according to a previous Mayor of the town. Morton Salt is the largest employer in or near the town and draws workers from a 20-mile (32km) radius, reaching deeper into Wyoming County and into neighbouring Allegany County.
The plant produces block salt for farm animals, pellets for water softening, and table salt. They co-pack Kosher salt from Ohio and Kansas. Table salt accounts for two-thirds of what is made at the plant. According to reports online, wages for general labour at the facility start at USD$21.38, increasing to USD$24.90 upon completion of a 90-day probationary period.
Brine extraction in Silver Springs, New York began in 1884 when the Duncan Salt Co. was established. It was bought by the Worcester Salt Co. around the turn of the 20th century, and has continued operations since Morton Salt bought it in 1944.
Since purchasing Morton Salt in 2021, SCIH have used their monopoly on salt production to attack workers’ unions and standards in both Canada and the United States. The workers harbour no doubt that they would like to continue this trend in Silver Springs. At this time, workers at Windsor Salt’s evaporation facility in Windsor, Ontario are on strike and no significant production at the plant has been possible since the strike began on February 17. This means that SCIH could have two evaporation plants offline if they try to impose conditions on the U.S. workers’ union in Silver Springs and the union refuses to submit and goes on strike.
The experience of Canadian workers shows that the company makes its plans to provoke a strike well in advance and its “offers” are a setup. The company may also try to use intimidation to get the workers at Silver Springs to accept something. But the workers have their own outlook on such matters based on more than a century of experience of dealing with union-busting and police powers deployed by employers and governments in all sectors of the economy. The company is in fact vulnerable to united action from the working class of Canada and the U.S. if they are able to stand as one in defence of their rights. In this respect, the workers on both sides of the border are on the lookout for company attempts to pit one section of the workers against the other to undermine them both. With this in mind, they can work out what will favour the labour movement as a whole in North America and give confidence that workers cannot just be disposed of, pitted against one another and that their collective No! to union busting means No!
The salt workers in Windsor have now maintained their resistance for 12 weeks in the face of all kinds of dirty tricks. Their fight in defence of their just claims in the contract negotiations has exposed the tactics of the company and brought forward more and more support from working people in the Windsor-Essex area and farther afield. This contributes to the general experience of the workers’ movement, especially those who work for unscrupulous companies like Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc.