Today in Labor History

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Archive for the tag “umwa”

September 17, 1989

1989_pittston_coal_strike_a_battle_for_workers_rigFive months into a Pittston Company mine strike, nearly 100 workers stage a sit-down strike in the Moss 3 central coal processing plant and successfully cease production for four days, supported by thousands of people outside the plant. A strike settlement was announced on January 1, 1990, which included a new contract that reinstated the health and retirement benefits that the company had stripped away.


April 21, 1894


Bituminous coal miners across the country go on strike over wage cuts. The nationwide strike – met with violence from scabs, company security, sheriff’s deputies, and the National Guard – ended in eight weeks and severely weakened the United Mine Workers of America, which had been founded just four years earlier. [Image: Pinkerton agents, hired by the Walston Mines, arriving to break the strike.]

March 25, 1947


Heavy deposits of coal dust cause an explosion in the Centralia Coal Company’s Mine No. 5 in Centralia, Illinois, killing 111 of the 142 miners at work at the time. Following the disaster, UMWA President John L. Lewis invoked the union’s right to call memorial days and as a memorial to those killed at Centralia, the miners did not work for six days.

August 31, 1921


The Battle of Blair Mountain in southern West Virginia is underway between upwards of 7,000 coal miners and the private militias employed by the coal companies to crush organizing by the United Mine Workers of America.  The battle lasted for five days until President Warren G. Harding sent in federal forces, at which point most of the miners surrendered.  The miners’ leaders were tried for insurrection and treason, legal fees all but bankrupted the union, and organizing in the coalfields halted until 1933.

June 11, 1969


Labor leader John L. Lewis dies.  Born in Cleveland, IA, in 1880 to Welsh immigrant parents, Lewis went to work as a miner when he was a teenager.  He worked as a mine workers’ organizer for the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and went on to serve the president of the United Mine Workers of America for 40 years.  A firm believer in industrial unionism, Lewis formed the predecessor organization to what would become the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

May 19, 1920


After illegally evicting miners from Stone Mountain Coal Company housing in Matewan, WV, Baldwin Felts detective agents attempt to leave town.  Following a confrontation with police chief and union supporter Sid Hatfield and others, a gun battle ensued.  Seven agents and several townspeople were killed.  (Photo:  Sid Hatfield)

April 20, 1914


State militia and company guards attack the tent city that striking coal miners set up in Ludlow, Colorado.  Following a machine gun assault, they set fire to the camp.  The exact number of men, women, and children who were killed that day remains unknown.  In 2009, the site of the Ludlow Massacre was designated a National Historic Landmark.

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