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Coal Strike of 1902 Coal miners in Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1900.

Other names Location Date 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike Pennsylvania, United States

The Coal Strike of 1902, also known as the Anthracite Coal Strike, was a strike by the United Mine Workers of America in the anthracite coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania. Miners were on strike asking for higher wages, shorter workdays, and the recognition of their union. The strike threatened to shut down the winter fuel supply to all major cities (homes and apartments were heated with anthracite or "hard" coal because it had higher heat value and less smoke than "soft" or bituminous coal). President Theodore Roosevelt became involved and set up a fact-finding commission that suspended the strike. The strike never resumed, as the miners received more pay for fewer hours; the owners got a higher price for coal, and did not recognize the trade union as a bargaining agent. It was the first labour episode in which the federal government intervened as a neutral arbitrator.

The 1899 and 1900 strikes

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had won a sweeping victory in the 1897 strike by the soft coal (bituminous coal) miners in the Midwest, winning significant wage increases and growing from 10,000 to 115,000 members. A number of small strikes took place in the anthracite district from 1899 to 1901, by which the labour union gained experience and unionized more workers. The 1899 strike in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, demonstrated that the unions could win a strike directed against a subsidiary of one of the large railroads. It hoped to make similar gains in 1900, but found the operators, who had established an oligopoly through concentration of ownership after drastic fluctuations in the market for anthracite, to be far more determined opponents than it had anticipated. The owners refused to meet or to arbitrate with the union; the union struck on September 17, 1900, with results that surprised even the union, as miners of all different nationalities walked out in support of the union.

Republican Senator Mark Hanna, himself an owner of bituminous coal mines (not involved in the strike) sought to resolve the strike, coming less than two months before the presidential election. He worked through the National Civic Federation, which brought labour and capital together. Relying on J. P. Morgan to convey his message to the industry that a strike would hurt the re-election of Republican William McKinley, Hanna was able to convince the owners to concede a wage increase and grievance procedure to the strikers. The industry refused, on the other hand, to formally recognize the UMWA as the representative of the workers. The union declared victory and dropped its demand for union recognition.

walked out on June 2. Tens of millions of city dwellers needed coal to heat their homes. cartoon from the Cleveland Dealer Theodore Roosevelt teaches the childish coal barons a lesson. brushed aside both proposals dismissively: "Anthracite mining is a business. local police and hired detective agencies on the other... the Pennsylvania National Guard." On May 12. Federal intervention Commission appointed by Roosevelt to resolve the dispute. sentimental. In the alternative. Roosevelt chose not to release the report. photographed by William H.000 strikers. 1902. who had much steadier jobs and did not face the special dangers of underground work. the eminent prelates you have named. President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.The Anthracite Coal Strike Miner strikes the owner. President of the UMWA.000 left the region. The industry. for fear of appearing to side with the union. the miners went out on strike. . The 150. opposed any federal role. I could not if I would delegate this business management to even so highly a respectable body as the Civic Federation.. Mitchell proposed that a committee of eminent clergymen report on conditions in the coalfields. Some 30. Rau The two sides were supposed to listen to expert testimony and come to a friendly agreement.000 miners wanted their weekly pay envelope. then a body of relatively progressive employers committed to collective as a means of resolving labour disputes. .000 returned to Europe. The maintenance employees. to investigate the strike. proposed mediation through the National Civic Federation. . recommending a nine-hour day on an experimental basis and limited collective bargaining. and not a religious. George Baer. President Theodore Roosevelt asked his Commissioner OfLabourr. Carroll D. The strike soon produced threats of violence between the strikers on one side and strike-breakers. Wright. 10. or academic proposition. many headed for Midwestern bituminous mines. The union had the support of roughly eighty percent of the workers in this area. or more than 100. Wright investigated and proposed reforms that acknowledged each side's position. 1902 editorial cartoon On June 8. one of the leading employers in the industry. 1902 Judge Cartoon The issues that led to the strike of 1900 were just as pressing in 1902: the union wanted recognition and a degree of control over the industry. still smarting from its concessions in 1900. John Mitchell. nor can I call to my aid .

which grew in value daily.” The union used this letter to sway public opinion behind the strike. They had huge stockpiles. the "rights and interests of the labouring man will be protected and cared for—not by the labour agitators. Roosevelt continued to try to build support for a mediated solution. who protected the mines and the minority of men still working. The owners welcomed the strike. "A coal famine in the winter is an ugly thing and I fear we shall see terrible suffering and grave disaster. and his wife and children when at work. because they feared the union would control the coal industry by manipulating strikes. Mitchell refused and his membership endorsed his decision by a nearly unanimous vote. persuading former President Grover Cleveland to join the commission he was creating." Roosevelt therefore convened a conference of representatives of government. 1902. The owners told Roosevelt that strikers had killed over 20 men and that he should use the power of government "to protect the man who wants to work. Philander Knox. but they adamantly refused to recognize the union. and if the supply fell. but he was told by his Attorney General. He also considered sending the U. which Roosevelt promised to support with all of the authority of his office. The economics of coal revolved around two factors: most of the cost of production was wages for miners. they would produce enough coal to end the fuel shortage. for their part.S. refused to negotiate with the union. As Roosevelt told Hanna. . labour. Roosevelt wanted to intervene. It was illegal for the owners to conspire to shut down production. Mark Hanna and many others in the Republican Party were likewise concerned about the political implications if the strike dragged on into winter. they refused to enter into any negotiations with the union." With proper protection. that he had no authority to do so. Roosevelt attempted to persuade the union to end the strike with a promise that he would create a commission to study the causes of the strike and propose a solution.The owners. The governor sent in the National Guard. but not so if the miners went on strike. Profits were low in 1902 because of an over supply. The union considered the mere holding of a meeting to be tantamount to union recognition and took a conciliatory tone. when the need for anthracite was greatest. therefore the owners welcomed a moderately long strike. but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country. As George Baer wrote when urged to make concessions to the strikers and their union. there were no good substitutes. and management on October 3. Army to take over the coalfields. the price would shoot up because in an age before oil and electricity.

Clark. a judge. including 240 for the striking miners. on October 23. they concluded that the "moving spectacle of horrors" represented only a small number of cases. Morgan. while lawyer Clarence Darrow closed for the workers. summed up the pages of testimony of mistreatment he had obtained . Why. The commissioners began work the next day. E. at the urging of Secretary of War. The employers agreed on the condition that the five members be a military engineer. Darrow.J. He was deeply involved in this strike as well: his interests included the Reading Railroad. and he had installed George Baer. then spent a week touring the coal regions." Baer said in his closing arguments.P. who spoke for the industry throughout the strike. after 163 days. Now. as the "eminent sociologist" and. an expert in the coal business." so Roosevelt named E. and miners were judged as only partly justified in their claim that annual earnings were not sufficient "to maintain an American standard of living. added a sixth. Baer made the closing arguments for the coal operators. Morgan intervenes J.P. and Commissioner Wright as the seventh member. head of the railway conductors' union. while giving the industry the right to deny that it was bargaining with the union by directing that each employer and its employees communicate directly with the commission. one of the largest employers of miners. Wright used the staff of the Department of Labour to collect data about the cost of living in the coalfields. after Catholics exerted pressure. The commissioners then held hearings over the next three months. for his part. 153 for non-union mineworkers. had played a role in resolving the 1900 strike. 1902. half of them don't even speak English". a mining engineer. "These men don't suffer. Elihu Root. By and large. as the head of the railroad. hell. The employers were willing to accept a union leader as the "eminent sociologist. Catholic bishop John Lancaster Spalding. and an "eminent sociologist". 154 for the operators and eleven called by the Commission itself. the dominant figure in American finance. Morgan came up with another compromise proposal that provide for arbitration. taking testimony from 558 witnesses. Although the commissioners heard some evidence of terrible conditions. social conditions in mine communities were found to be good. The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission The anthracite strike ended.

however. and will remember our struggles. the rhetoric of both sides made little difference to the Commission. our triumphs. Mitchell considered that de facto recognition and called it a victory. our defeats.” In the end. made up of equal numbers of labour and management representatives. The settlement was an important step in the Progressive era reforms of the decade that followed. The miners asked for 20% wage increases. which strove to provide a "Square Deal"—which Roosevelt took as the motto for his administration—to both sides. The miners had asked for an eight-hour day and were awarded a nine-hour day instead of the standard ten hours then prevailing. for the day will come too late for us to see it or know it or receive its benefits. as moderates argued they could produce concrete benefits for workers much sooner than radical Socialists who planned to overthrow capitalism in the future. and regional divisions that had long plagued the union in the anthracite region. While the operators refused to recognize the United Mine Workers. and the words which we the soaring rhetoric for which he was famous: "We are working for democracy. but which will come. they were required to agree to a six-man arbitration board. with the power to settle labour disputes. Young John Mitchell proved his leadership skills and mastery of the problems of ethnic. for the future. By contrast the strikes of the radical Western Federation of Miners in the West often turned into full-scale warfare between strikers and both employers and the civil and military authorities. There were no more major coal strikes until the 1920s. and most were given a 10% increase. . for humanity. This strike was successfully mediated through the intervention of the federal government. which split the difference between mineworkers and mine owners. The aftermath of the strike Organized labour celebrated the outcome as a victory for the UMWA and American Federation of Labour unions generally. skill. Membership in other unions soared.