Friday, October 17, 2008
An 1875 List of Union Officials Of The M&L.W.B.A In July 1875 Schuylkill County Area
It is interesting to note the names of the men in these different districts. As a historian I have always tried to disprove the theory that the Irish hated the Welsh, and the Welsh hated the Irish. As evidence you can see the different names of the officers both Irish and Welsh serving together in the same offices.
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THE WORKING MANS BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION
Did you know the first miners union was formed in Schuylkill County? the first miners union, actually possibly the first trade union in the United States was organized in 1849 at a colliery in St. Clair, Schuylkill County, by an Englishman named John Bates, and is known as Bates’ Union. It hardly got on its feet when it went on strike for more wages. But within three weeks the strikers returned to their working places, beaten, and the union died within a few months. Others said that Bates ran off with their dues and money paid in?
In 1868 the anthracite miners once again found strength and united. The Workmen’s Benevolent Association, got its start this year in St. Clair, which gave birth to the Bates Union. John Siney became a labor leader of national reputation was its organizer. The W.B.A. as the old miners referred to it, lived a brief seven years, and they were about the fattest the mine workers saw in the whole country.
The W.B.A. grew stronger and bolder each succeeding month as it reached out to all parts of the anthracite region, and John Siney and his apostles talked of spreading the gospel among the great mass of miners in the western Bituminous fields. Meanwhile, there came from the operators insistent demands for reductions in wages which the union was able to resist in most instances until 1975.
What had worked to the advantage of the W.B.A. up to 1875 was the difficulty of the operators to unite against them owing to fierce competition for markets. Most of the strikes until then had been sectional affairs; when the miners suffered losses in a striking area they drew courage from their fellow unionists in sections where peace existed.
Parenthetically, this period marks the rise of that double headed dragon kind of corporation which brought vast coal properties under the control of a handful of railroad companies. The most powerful of these corporations was the Philadelphia Reading Coal and Iron Company incorporated in 1872. Under the Presidency of Franklin B. Gowen, the greatest industrialist in he region. The “Company” exerted a dominant influence over the destinies of thousands of its workers while its power was felt all over the region.
In 1874 Gowen induced the operators to band together in to the Anthracite Board of trade, for the purpose of stabilizing the market, by controlling the production, and tonnage quotas. In December 1874 came the ultimation of the united operators….wages must come down! It was left to the operators; it ranged from 10 to 20 percent. The Showdown had come at last.
When it began the strike of 1875 forever known as “The Long Strike”, it was region wide. But soon the miners in the northern fields accepted a cut in wages and returned to work. Though disturbed over this defection, the strikers in the southern and middle coal fields carried on. Acute suffering was being felt by the miners and their families causing some of the weaker brethren to submit to “blacklegging”. As the weeks wore on, suffering became more sharp and at one time the leaders were willing to accept a reduction provided their Union the Miners and Laborers Benevolent Association would have a voice in the settlement. Though some independents were willing to agree to this, the great corporations, determined to crush the Union and ruin it. They refused to have anything to do with the union. The strike dragged itself out to the middle of June, when the men, their families starving, submitted. They returned to work humbled in pride, and broken hearted. Gone was the union, and lacking any protection they entered upon a condition of existence that was altogether tragic. The union went to its grave because the great operators abetted by a coal and iron police recently established, and by a resort to the blacklist, willed it so. So ended the M&L.B.A.
A Meeting was called to re-organize the union
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Poloticians will be poloticians no matter what era.