Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Coal Miners Triumph
After Defying ‘Seizure’

Win Big Gains as Truman Bows to Solid Strike

(8 June 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 23, 8 June 1946, p. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Unflinching in their defiance of the government’s all-Truman administration to terms and gained an historic out drive to break their strike, the 400,000 soft coal miners of the AFL United Mine Workers on May 29 forced the triumph.

The contract they wrested from the government, present controller of the mines, provides major concessions in line with the union’s key demands for an operator-financed health and welfare fund, improved safety regulations and the right to organize supervisory employees.

In addition, the miners won wage increases totalling $1.85 a day – the largest amount so far won by any union during the current strike wave.

Forced to concede the fact of a clear-cut victory by the miners, the Big Business press could only vent its rage by denunciation of the Truman administration for retreating before the miners after failing to crack their solid front through a terrifically savage strikebreaking campaign.

The bituminous miners struck on April 1, after the mine owners had arrogantly refused even to consider the mine workers’ main demands. These included an operator-financed, union-controlled health and welfare fund, contractual agreement to meet federal and state mine boards’ safety regulations and recommendations, and observance of the National Labor Relations Board decision recognizing the right of supervisory employees to collective bargaining through unions of their own choosing.

The agreement made by the government does not provide for the type of health and welfare fund the miners sought. But it is a far-reaching concession. Through a five-cent a ton levy on coal production, a health and welfare fund of between $25,000,000 and $30,000,000 annually is to be established for the miners. It will be administered jointly by the government and union.

In addition, the union is to get complete control over the millions of dollars which the companies have been deducting annually from miners’ pay for company-controlled “welfare” funds from which the miners received scarcely any benefits. These funds must now be turned over to the union for a genuine welfare fund.

Safety Committees

The federal safety code, which has been non-compulsory, is to be enforced, with periodic federal mine inspection and obligatory institution of all safety recommendations. Every mine union local is to have a mine safety committee with power to inspect at all times any operations and to pull out any workers immediately endangered by unsafe conditions.

The straight time wages are raised 18½ cents an hour. Since the miners will return from a 40-hour to a 35-hour week with two-hours-a-day guaranteed overtime at time-and-a-half rates, the total daily increase will amount to $1.85.

Truman seized the mines on May 22, after the UMW leaders had declared a two-week strike-truce on May 10. This truce followed the false declaration by Truman that the operators had “agreed in principle” to the union’s demands.

Large numbers of the miners refused to accept the truce. On May 25, when the truce ended, virtually all the mines were shut down despite Truman’s threats to use troops, which was actually begun in Kentucky. It was also after Truman had told the striking railroad workers he would not deal with a union on “strike against the government.”

But the miners could not be terrorized. Truman had to swallow his threats and come to terms.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 24 December 2018