Molycorp, Inc., the mining firm that operates a rare earths metals mine in the San Bernardino County desert, announced Monday that the company has agreed to a three-year contract with United Steelworkers members working at the mine.
Molycorp’s mine is at Mountain Pass, near the Nevada state line. The mine is the only place in the United States where the natural elements known as rare earths metals are extracted from the ground.
China leads the world in rare earths production. The elements are used to manufacture powerful magnets and components in many products, such as smart phones and missiles.
Molycorp is headquartered in Colorado.
Last week’s strike authorization vote does not mean a work stoppage at Southern California grocery stores is imminent, a union leader said.
“We go back into negotiations tomorrow,” said Connie Leyva, president of Union of Food and Commercial Workers Local 1428.
Talks are expected to continue through through this week and the next two weeks, added Leyva, who said she was hopeful a strike could be averted.
UFCW Local 1428 represents grocery workers in the Pomona and Claremont areas. Union members throughout Southern California voted last Thursday to authorize a strike if negotiations with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons fail to produce a new collective bargaining agreement.
The union is in separate negotiations with Stater Bros. Markets, which is based in San Bernardino.
The UFCW’s Southern California locals last went on strike against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons in 2003-04. The unions and grocers experienced a prolonged negotiations process in 2007, but succeeded in avoiding a work stoppage.
UFCW leaders are counting votes that would give grocery union leaders authorization to go on strike against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons.
The Pasadena Star-News, the Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s sister paper, reported that members of UFCW Local 770 “ members “overwhelmingly” approved giving their contract negotiators the option to call a strike if necessary.”
UFCW spokeswoman Ellen Anreder said the locals representing workers as far north as Mono County and as far south as the Mexican border. She emphasized that a “yes” vote would not mean the union would immediately go on strike, but union negotiators would have that option.
Anreder said she was not authorized to elaborate on the sticking point between union and grocery chain negotiators.
The two sides have been in negotiations since February. Albertsons, Ralphs and Von’s issued the following joint statement:
“Asking for strike authorization is a common tactic in negotiations and does not necessarily mean a strike will be called. Getting sidetracked by these tactics will only delay our ability to reach an agreement on a fair contract for our associates. The real work towards getting a fair contract will happen at the negotiating table and we hope that’s where the union leadership will focus its attention as we return to bargaining next week.”