Sun Jan 29, 2023
January 29, 2023

Interview with Edward Gallardo, mining leader: "It is essential that we organize, within the working class, to nationalize mining industries."

Edward Gallardo Basay (Edu) is a mine worker, subcontracted at the Chuquicamata mines, president of the National Intercompany Mining Union (SIM). He is also a leader of the International Workers Movement (MIT-Chile).
October 18
MIT-Chile: Hello comrade, thank you for agreeing to the interview. First of all, could you tell us a little about how COVID has impacted the mining industry?
Edu: The COVID problem is as serious as it has been since the beginning of the pandemic: lots of infections, working conditions that incease the spread, and the workers are exposed and without any guarantee of being healthy as they go up and down the shafts. The companies do not lift a finger and people are left with no choice but working in these conditions, destined to their fate. The mining companies could have put an end to the virus if they had stopped production for one or two months, with full pay for the workers, but they do not do it, because what it is all about is  production at any cost, including at the cost of the health and life of those who produce that wealth.
MIT-Chile: The formation of the Sindicato Interempresa de la Mineria (SIM, Intercompany Mining Union) has been huge news for miners. Can you tell us about the process and what SIM is up to today?
Edu: We are the first union to be founded in the Chuquicamata mines. There were secret political discussions for about four years, until we had established a solid base and a program approved by the workers, which gave us the signal that it was time. The events of October 2019 were key for the consciousness of our comrades. Today we are in many sites including Chuqui, Salvador, Teniente, Escondida, Centinela, Pelambres, Collahuasi, Quebrada Blanca and others, with plant and contracted workers, who already number in the thousands. The main thing is that this union is taking on the task of discussing the existing problems on site, the reality of mining, and also the historical problems that bourgeois society presents us.
MIT-Chile: You are one of the three leaders that the companies want to keep out of Chuquicamata, suspended without pay since the formation of the SIM. What has happened with the demands for reinstatement and what actions have been taken?
Edu: It has been hard without a single peso of salary. You have to eat, to live, and in my case I have three children and I cannot tell them that the company has not paid my salary for months. But in spite of everything, in spite of the employer’s attacks and those of the union bureaucracy who see their schemes threatened, in spite of all that, the workers at the base trust the organization that we have built together. As a result, we have more leaders and delegates at the site who continue to organize there, “in the fray” as we miners say, face-to-face, responding to the requirements and needs of the work itself.
The reinstatement of my two colleagues has been ruled by the courts and is in progres. As for my case, my hearing, which is scheduled for April, and has not yet taken place.
MIT-Chile: You have been an important part of the campaign for the nationalization of large-scale copper, lithium and gold mining, even going to the Constitutional Convention. How has this proposal been received by the miners?
Edu: We took the discussion of the nationalization of large mining to the worksites through the newsletter La Voz del Minero (The Miner’s Voice). We have sent thousands of these to mining company workers for two and a half years, handing them out, and because of this our union has taken up this demand and promoted it from day one with the approval of the mining workers. We were drafters of the very same resolution that was submitted with twenty-four thousand public signatures to the Convention, which was distributed by thousands at the sites.
It is essential that the miners, subcontracted workers and plant workers organize together with other sectors of the working class to win the nationalization of big mining and the historical demands of the working class.
MIT-Chile: Anything else you would like to tell us?
Edu: Just to finish by saying that we must be aware that neither the Boric government nor the Convention will be able to solve our problems. If we mobilize we can press for some changes, but the real, entrenched obstacles, those we can only conquer by fighting and getting organized. As a militant of the MIT, I cannot fail to mention the importance of us, workers, discussing the construction of an organization that goes beyond the unions, that connects and organizes us politically as a class to think decisively about fighting to end this system and to take that historic leap towards a workers’ government.
 

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