Big Crowds in L.A. and San Francisco Back Locked Out Rio Tinto Miners

More than 1,000 union and community activists, joined by about 200 locked-out miners and their families, marched outside the British consulate in Los Angeles on Friday to protest British-owned Rio Tinto’s two and half-month lock out of 600 miners at its Boron, Calif., borax mine.

The march and rally was one of several in the United States and Canada to support the members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 30, who have been locked out since Jan. 31. (Click here for information on the Boston and Seattle demonstrations, and a tip of the hat to ILWU’s Craig Merrilees for the updated info.)

In Los Angeles, Kevin Martz, who operated heavy equipment at the Boron mine, says the group chose the consulate target because

Rio Tinto is a British-based global mining giant that’s hurting entire town of American families who want to work.

The miners and their families drove from Boron, about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and joined a convoy of cars and big rigs that circled the consulate before activists set up a picket line. Speaking from the bed of a pickup truck, Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, urged the British government to use its influence with Rio Tinto to

End the lock out now….You’re the British government. We expect you to do the right thing.

In San Francisco, some 200 activists and locked-out miners marched and chanted outside the building that houses the consulate. After discussions with police on the scene, locked-out ILWU Local 30 member Tom Owen was allowed to go upstairs to the consulate offices and meet with consular officials. He delivered a declaration signed by the demonstrators urging an end to the lock out.

Supporters also rallied in Salt Lake City and Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Rio Tinto is one of the world’s largest mining companies with a history of human rights abuse around the globe. In Boron, the company locked out the workers after they voted down the giveback-packed contract from Rio Tinto. According to the ILWU, Rio Tinto in 2009 made nearly $5 billion in profits, despite a worldwide recession.

The London-based company operates mines on five continents and has a long record of union-busting actions, according to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM).

For more information on the lockout, click here. You can make a tax-deductible contribution via credit card here. For more information about the campaign and to become a Facebook friend of the miners, go here.