Little Bits of History

United Mine Workers

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2014
United Mine Workers

United Mine Workers

January 22, 1890:  The United Mine Workers (UMW or UMWA) is founded in Columbus, Ohio. The merger of two older labor groups, the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union, formed the UMW. The labor union focused on representing coal miners and coal technicians. It was established with three main items and several lesser items on the agenda. They wanted to develop mine safety, improve mine workers’ independence from mine owners and the company store, and to provide miners with collective bargaining power. It had taken decades to get the miners to join together under one banner but as wages fell, their willingness to work together increased.

The first step towards miner solidarity was taken in 1865 when nearly half of all coal miners joined the American Miners’ Association. The mine owners fought back and members of the AMA were fired and blacklisted. In 1868 the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association was begun and had more success. Their President was John Siney and he worked on making conditions better for miners while helping owners increase profits so both sides won. Franklin B. Gowen, owner of the Reading Railroad, purchased several mines and provided the rail system to transport the coal. His tyrannical business methods destroyed the WBM.

The National Trade Assembly #135, also known as the Knights of Labor, was started around 1870 and was more successful. They used secret local assemblies to help boost the overall power of the larger union. There were only two types of local assemblies and yet they worked as divisive rather than cohesive. The trade LAs were subdivided further and further. The popularity was more based on local leadership than on the cohesive methods of bargaining with mine owners. Locals rose and fell with the personalities of the leaders. They did not use striking as a means of gaining concessions.

The National Federation of Miners and Mine Laborers was formed by Knights of Labor leaders who realized secret membership was causing a problem. Their basic platform was to bargain for eight hour workdays and get fair weighing stations within the mines. They were unable to bring in the fair scales and lost momentum with their members. When the UMW formed, they had 11 union goals. Today, the 80,000 members are led by Cecil Roberts. They not only represent miners, but health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers, and public employees of the US and Canada. They not only focus on worker rights but also on better roads, schools, and universal health care.

If I went to work in a factory the first thing I’d do is join a union. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Now workers should have the right to join unions. But unions should not be forced upon workers. And unions should not have the power to take money out of their members’ paychecks to buy the support of politicians that are favored by the union bosses. – Mitt Romney

The union movement has been the best middle class job creating program that America has ever had, and it doesn’t cost the government a dime. – Andy Stern

Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work. – Susan B. Anthony

Also on this day: Roe v. Wade – In 1973, the Supreme Court decided on the abortion issue, assuring all women a right to privacy.
Bloody Sunday – In 1905, a Russian uprising took place in St. Petersburg.
Pontifical Swiss Guards – In 1506, the first of the Swiss Guards come to protect the Pope.
Football – In 1927, an association football match was broadcast over the radio.

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