The on-again contract talks between the United Mine Workers union and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association are on again today with the faint possibility that the union will offer a proposal that could hasten the end of its now 55-day-old strike.
UMW President Sam Church Jr. mentioned the mystery proposal -- he called it a "resolution" -- at a press conference yesterday, following a 7-hour meeting with his 39-member bargaining council.
The "resolution" concerns union security provisions that UMW and BCOA negotiators have been fighting over since last month, after the union's rank-and-file overwhelmingly rejected the first contract worked out by their leaders.
Basically, the provisions concern the hiring of nonunion subcontractors and the disputed requirement that BCOA firms pay royalty fees to UMW health and welfare funds everytime the firms purchase supplemental coal from companies not covered by a BCOA/UMW agreement.
The BCOA wants the right to hire nonunion subcontractors in certain cases, and does not want to pay the royalty fees. The UMW takes the opposing view on both issues.
Church said the resolution/proposal that will be considered today is not a UMW concession on either issue. He did not elaborate.