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Illinois Coal & Coal Mining
History & Genealogy

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Early Strikes of Coal Miners
1849 - 1919

 
Cartoon
SCUTTLED !
 
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BATTLING SINCE 1849
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      The first strike ever staged by American coal miners was in 1849, by local union, organized in the Pennsylvania anthracite field, struck for higher pay and better working conditions. The strike failed.
 
      It was a decade before miners again organized. Since then there have been hundreds of walkouts of various size and in various mining districts.
 
      Among the hundreds of strikes only five were big enough to be compared with the present one, which breaks all records for number of men involved.
 
      During the panic of 1893 miners' wages were cut. To regain this loss about 160,000 bituminous miners struck the following year. After disorders and calling out of militia in four states, this strike ended in a compromise,
 
      In 1897 there was an overproduction of coal. Anticipating a wage cut in a dull market 150,000 miners struck for three months. By then coal was scarce and wage cuts were out of the question.
 
      The 1897 strike was the first major victory of the United Mine Workers of America. It led, in 1898, to firm establishment of collective bargaining between the union and the operators of the Central Competitive District, the heart of the bituminous industry.
UMWA 1898 Eight Hour Day

 
      The anthracite strike of 1900 won wage increase of 10 to 16 per cent for the 132,000 miners involved.
 
      Two years later the 140,000 anthracite miners walked out. After a strike of 23 weeks the Roosevelt commission raised their pay 10 per cent. They returned to work with a three-years' contract.
 
      In 1919 about 395,000 miners struck. They finally won a wage increase averaging 27 per cent.
 
      Seventy-three years of intermittent strikes in the coal fields! It is one of the oldest of all labor controversies.
 
      The fact that no permanent settlement has been found in nearly three-fourths of a century is due largely to a peculiar problem in the coal industry -- seasonal buying.
 
      Seasonal buying means that coal sales during certain months are dull. Miners then are laid off, for the mines do not operate long when they have no market.
 
      This condition necessitates keeping a labor surplus in the coal fields, to handle orders when they show up, like maintaining firemen in idleness, awaiting outbreak of fire.
 
      If you can solve this problem -- find a way to induce homes and businesses to buy more coal during dull months -- you have the key to a labor battle waged since 1849.
 
      For, above all, what the miners always want is steady employment.

 
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Strikes in Illinois
On Strike sign Strikes ~ 1894 -- April through August
Turmoil throughout the State
 
Battle of Virden -- October 12, 1898
Macoupin County, Illinois
 
Strikes ~ 1897
Illinois
 
Strikes ~ 1898
Pana, Christian County, Illinois
 
Strikes ~ 1911 - 1912
Macoupin County, Illinois
 
Herrin Massacre -- June 21 & 22, 1922
Williamson County, Illinois

 
1. The Dekalb Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, Illinois, Twenty-Second Year Number 102, Monday, April 3, 1922, Page 4
 

 
Coal & Coal Mining in Illinois
 
© 2017    Wayne Hinton
 
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