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coal miners lung

Bituminous Coal Miners' Strike of 1894

The Bituminous Coal Miners' Strike was an unsuccessful national eight-week strike by miners of hard coal in the United States, which began on April 21, 1894.

The Panic of 1893 hit the coal mining industry particularly hard. Wage cuts in the industry began immediately, and wages were slashed again in early 1894.

By the late spring of 1894, the United Mine Workers, which had a mere $2,600 in its treasury and a paid membership of 13,000, called a general strike in the bituminous coal mining industry. The demand was for wages to return to the level they were at on May 1, 1893.

Initially, the strike was a major success. More than 180,000 miners in Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia struck.

But the mine owners were unwilling and/or unable to restore wages. Some owners adjusted wages slightly upward, but most refused to budge.

The strike dragged on. As the depression deepened, the miners were unable to hold out. By late June, almost all the miners had returned to work.

The strike shattered the United Mine Workers. A year after the strike, the union's secretary-treasurer wrote to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), declaring, 'The National is busted...' The union almost ceased to exist. It suspended publication of its newsletter and ceased paying per capita dues to the AFL.

It would be a quarter of a century before John L. Lewis would turn the Mine Workers into a successful union again.

References

  • Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States: From the Founding of the A.F. of L. to the Emergence of American Imperialism. 2nd ed. New York: International Publishers, Co., 1975. ISBN 0-7178-0388-0

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