Richard L. Trumka, president of the United Mine Workers of America, yesterday announced formation of a South African Miners Aid Fund to help miners he said have been injured or face dismissal because they joined an abortive strike by South Africa's black mineworkers' union.
The UMWA leader said his union is considering several other actions, including a "sympathy strike" by U.S. mineworkers, to help more than 10,000 South African miners he said may lose their jobs for participating in the strike, which was called off Tuesday after a two-day walkout.
"I offer the UMWA's support for their struggle to help end apartheid and obtain the rights and benefits that many Americans take for granted," said Trumka, addressing antiapartheid demonstrators at the South African Embassy.
Now in its 10th month, the embassy protest continued yesterday with the arrests of four persons, including Henry Nickleberry, an official with the United Auto Workers. About 50 pickets marched in support of the protest.
Trumka, who was arrested at the embassy July 25, compared the miners' struggles in South Africa to the Solidarity movement in Poland and said the "unholy alliance between industry and government" in both nations is preventing workers from improving the quality of their lives.
According to Trumka, at least 25 miners were injured by company guards and state police during the strike. In one instance, he said, "miners were locked into the barracks where they are forced to live, and held under armed guard without food or water, to prevent them from joining in the strike." He said contributions to the miners aid fund would be channeled directly to South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers.
At yesterday's demonstration, Randall Robinson and D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy, cochairmen of the Free South Africa Movement, called on the Senate to pass proposed sanctions against the South African government. The legislation was pending at the time of the congressional break, which ends next week.
"During the August break," said Fauntroy, "the South African government has done more to destroy its own economy than anything we could have dreamed up with our sanctions."
More than 3,000 demonstrators have been arrested at the embassy since apartheid protests began Nov. 21. Organizers credited conventions and visiting tourists -- vacationers from Iowa, Georgia, West Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and California -- with helping to keep the weekday afternoon embassy arrests going during July and August.
"We got calls from people who were in town and had driven by the demonstration and wanted to participate," said Cecelie Counts, who coordinates the scheduling of arrests at the embassy.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell's recent comments in support of the South African government also have helped attract supporters, Counts said. "It's picking up again -- we've got people lined up to be arrested all the way to Dec. 4."