Mineworkers union SINTRAMIENERGETICA and the families of three murdered union leaders have raised a civil action in the US District Court in Alabama, demanding a jury trial for equitable relief and damages, against the Drummond Company and Gary Drummond.
"We have evidence that the paramilitaries who killed the three union leaders were in fact working for Drummond," said Terry Collingsworth of the International Labor Rights Fund, that with the United Steelworkers is suing Drummond.
In the 1990’s, with forecasts that Alabama’s coal reserves would soon be depleted, Drummond looked to Colombia. It invested more than $500 million in its huge La Loma mine, opened in 1994.
Last March, when the mine was in a bitter dispute with SINTRAMIENERGETICA, the union’s president, Valmore Lacarno Rodrguez, and its vice president, Vctor Hugo Orcasita Amaya, were assassinated. The recent lawsuit, brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, contends that several paramilitary gunmen stopped a company bus carrying miners back to their villages and ordered Mr. Lacarno and Mr. Orcasita off. "Several witnesses heard the paramilitaries say that they were there to settle a dispute that Lacarno and Orcasita had with Drummond," the lawsuit said.
Fearing assassination, Mr. Lacarno and Mr. Orcasita had asked the company to let them sleep at themine. Drummond officials refused. Last October, seven months after the two leaders were killed, Gustavo Soler Mora, the new president of the union at Drummond’s mine, was ordered off a bus by gunmen. Farmers later found his body. He had been shot twice in the head.
Francisco Ramírez, secretary of the Colombia Federation of Mine Workers points out that "Drummond could have stopped these assassinations, but they chose not to, We’ve brought suit in the United States as a last resort because there is no punishment in Colombia against those who commit crimes against union leaders."