John L. Lewis
Lewis at the United States Capitol in 1922
|9th President of the United Mine Workers|
|Preceded by||Frank Hayes|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Kennedy|
|1st President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations|
|Preceded by||new organization|
|Succeeded by||Philip Murray|
John Llewellyn Lewis
February 12, 1880
Cleveland, Lucas County, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||June 11, 1969 89) (aged|
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Myrta E. Bell
(m. 1907;died 1942)
|Children||Margaret Mary, Kathryn, and John, Jr.|
|Occupation||Miner, labor leader|
John Llewellyn Lewis (February 12, 1880 – June 11, 1969) was an American leader of organized labor who served as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) from 1920 to 1960. A major player in the history of coal mining, he was the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s. After resigning as head of the CIO in 1941, he took the Mine Workers out of the CIO in 1942 and in 1944 took the union into the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
Labor unions in the United States are organizations that represent workers in many industries recognized under US labor law. Their activity today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger trade unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.
The United Mine Workers of America is a North American labor union best known for representing coal miners. Today, the Union also represents health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers and public employees in the United States and Canada. Although its main focus has always been on workers and their rights, the UMW of today also advocates for better roads, schools, and universal health care. By 2014, coal mining had largely shifted to open pit mines in Wyoming, and there were only 60,000 active coal miners. The UMW was left with 35,000 members, of whom 20,000 were coal miners, chiefly in underground mines in Kentucky and West Virginia. However it was responsible for pensions and medical benefits for 40,000 retired miners, and for 50,000 spouses and dependents.
The history of coal mining goes back thousands of years. It became important in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was primarily used to power steam engines, heat buildings and generate electricity. Coal mining continues as an important economic activity today. Compared to wood fuels, coal yields a higher amount of energy per mass and can often be obtained in areas where wood is not readily available. Though it was used historically as a domestic fuel, coal is now used mostly in industry, especially in smelting and alloy production as well as electricity generation. Large-scale coal mining developed during the Industrial Revolution, and coal provided the main source of primary energy for industry and transportation in industrial areas from the 18th century to the 1950s. Coal remains an important energy source because of its low cost and abundance compared to other fuels, particularly for electricity generation. Coal is also mined today on a large scale by open pit methods wherever the coal strata strike the surface or are relatively shallow. Britain developed the main techniques of underground coal mining from the late 18th century onward, with further progress being driven by 19th century and early 20th century progress. However, oil and gas were increasingly used as alternatives from the 1860s onward.
A leading liberal, he played a major role in helping Franklin D. Roosevelt win a landslide in 1936, but as an isolationist, broke with Roosevelt in 1940 on FDR's anti-Nazi foreign policy. Lewis was a brutally effective aggressive fighter and strike leader who gained high wages for his membership while steamrolling over his opponents, including the United States government. Lewis was one of the most controversial and innovative leaders in the history of labor, gaining credit for building the industrial unions of the CIO into a political and economic powerhouse to rival the AFL, yet was widely hated by calling for nationwide coal strikes which critics believed to be damaging to the American economy and war effort. His massive leonine head, forest-like eyebrows, firmly set jaw, powerful voice and ever-present scowl thrilled his supporters, angered his enemies, and delighted cartoonists. Coal miners for 40 years hailed him as their leader, whom they credited with bringing high wages, pensions and medical benefits.
Liberalism in the United States is a broad political philosophy centered on what many see as the unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion for all belief systems and the separation of church and state, right to due process and equality under the law are widely accepted as a common foundation across the spectrum of liberal thought.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II, which ended shortly after he died in office. He is rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but has also been subject to substantial criticism.
Isolationism is a category of foreign policies institutionalized by leaders who assert that their nations' best interests are best served by keeping the affairs of other countries at a distance. One possible motivation for limiting international involvement is to avoid being drawn into dangerous and otherwise undesirable conflicts. There may also be a perceived benefit from avoiding international trade agreements or other mutual assistance pacts.
Lewis was born in or near Cleveland, Lucas County, Iowa (distinct from the present township of Cleveland in Davis County), to Thomas H. Lewis and Ann Watkins Lewis, both of whom had immigrated from Llangurig, Wales. Cleveland was a company town built around a coal mine one mile east of Lucas.His mother and grandparents were members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), and the boy adopted the church's views regarding alcohol and sexual propriety, as well as its belief in a just social order that favored the poor. While his grandfather was an RLDS pastor and Lewis periodically donated to his local RLDS church for the rest of his life, there is no definite evidence that he formally joined the Midwestern Mormon denomination.
Immigration to the United States is the international movement of non-U.S. nationals in order to reside permanently in the country. Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the U.S. history. Because the United States is a settler colonial society, all Americans, with the exception of the small percent of Native Americans, can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations around the world.
Llangurig is a village and community in Montgomeryshire, Powys, Wales, lying on the River Wye. The population is 723 as of the 2011 UK Census.
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.
Lewis attended three years of high school in Des Moines and at the age of 17 went to work in the Big Hill Mine at Lucas. In 1906, Lewis was elected a delegate to the United Mine Workers (UMW) national convention. In 1907, he ran for mayor of Lucas and launched a feed-and-grain distributorship. Both were failures and Lewis returned to coal mining. He moved to Panama, Illinois and in 1909 was elected president of the UMW local. In 1911 Samuel Gompers, the head of the AFL, hired Lewis as a full-time union organizer. Lewis traveled throughout Pennsylvania and the Midwest as an organizer and trouble-shooter, especially in coal and steel districts.
Des Moines is the capital and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Iowa. It is also the county seat of Polk County. A small part of the city extends into Warren County. It was incorporated on September 22, 1851, as Fort Des Moines, which was shortened to "Des Moines" in 1857. It is on and named after the Des Moines River, which likely was adapted from the early French name, Rivière des Moines, meaning "River of the Monks". The city's population was 216,853 as of the 2018 population estimate. The five-county metropolitan area is ranked 89th in terms of population in the United States with 655,409 residents according to the 2018 estimate by the United States Census Bureau, and is the largest metropolitan area fully located within the state. A portion of the larger Omaha, Nebraska metropolitan area extends into three counties of southwest Iowa.
Lucas is a city in Lucas County, Iowa, United States. The population was 216 at the 2010 census.
Panama is a village in Montgomery and Bond counties, Illinois, United States. The population was 343 at the 2010 census.
After serving as statistician and then as vice-president for the UMWA, Lewis became that union's acting president in 1919. On November 1, 1919, he called the first major coal union strike, as 400,000 miners walked off their jobs. President Wilson obtained an injunction, which Lewis obeyed, telling the rank and file, "We cannot fight the Government." In 1920, he was elected president of the UMWA. Lewis quickly asserted himself as a dominant figure in what was then the largest and most influential trade union in the country. [ citation needed ]
A statistician is a person who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. It is common to combine statistical knowledge with expertise in other subjects, and statisticians may work as employees or as statistical consultants.
Coal miners worldwide were sympathetic to socialism, and in the 1920s, Communists systematically tried to seize control of UMWA locals. William Z. Foster, the Communist leader, opposed dual unions in favor of organizing within the UMWA. The radicals were most successful in the bituminous (soft) coal regions of the Midwest, where they used local organizing drives to gain control of locals, sought a national labor political party, and demanded federal nationalization of the industry. Lewis, committed to cooperation among labor, management, and government, took tight control of the union.He placed the once-autonomous districts under centralized receivership, packed the union bureaucracy with men directly beholden to him, and used UMWA conventions and publications to discredit his critics. The fight was bitter but Lewis used armed force, red-baiting, and ballot-box stuffing and, in 1928, expelled the leftists. As Hudson (1952) shows, they started a separate union, the National Miners' Union. In Southern Illinois, amidst widespread violence, the Progressive Mine Workers of America of America challenged Lewis but were beaten back. After 1935, Lewis invited the radical organizers to work for his CIO organizing drives, and they soon gained powerful positions in CIO unions, including auto workers and electrical workers.
Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.
The Communist Party USA, officially the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), is a communist party in the United States established in 1919 after a split in the Socialist Party of America following the Russian Revolution.
William Z. Foster was a radical American labor organizer and Marxist politician, whose career included serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party USA from 1945 to 1957. He was previously a member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, leading the drive to organize the packinghouse industry during World War I and the steel strike of 1919.
Lewis was often denounced as a despotic leader. He repeatedly expelled his political rivals from the UMWA, including John Walker, John Brophy, Alexander Howat and Adolph Germer. Communists in District 26 (Nova Scotia), including Canadian labor legend J. B. McLachlan, were banned from running for the union executive after a strike in 1923. McLachlan described him as "a traitor" to the working class.Lewis nonetheless commanded great loyalty from many of his followers, even those he had exiled in the past.
A powerful speaker and strategist, Lewis used the nation's dependence on coal to increase the wages and improve the safety of miners, even during several severe recessions. He masterminded a five-month strike, ensuring that the increase in wages gained during World War I would not be lost. Lewis challenged Samuel Gompers, who had led the AFL for nearly forty years, for the Presidency of the AFL in 1921. William Green, one of his subordinates within the Mine Workers at the time, nominated him; William Hutcheson, the President of the Carpenters, supported him. Gompers won. Three years later, on Gompers' death, Green succeeded him as AFL President.
In 1924, Lewis a Republican,framed a plan for a three-year contract between the UMWA and the coal operators, providing for a pay rate of $7.50 per day (about $111 in 2019 dollars when adjusted for inflation). President Coolidge and then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover were impressed with the plan and Lewis was actually offered the post of Secretary of Labor in Coolidge's cabinet. Lewis declined, a move he later regretted. Without government support, the contract talks failed and coal operators hired non-union miners. The UMWA treasury was drained, but Lewis was able to maintain the union and his position within it. He was successful in winning the 1925 anthracite (hard coal) miners' strike by his oratorical skills.
Lewis supported Republican Herbert Hoover for President in 1928; in 1932, as the Great Depression bore brutally on the mining camps, he officially backed Hoover but quietly supported Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1936, his union made the largest single contribution, over $500,000, to Roosevelt's successful campaign for reelection.
Lewis was appointed a member of the Labor Advisory Board and the National Labor Board of the National Recovery Administration in 1933 and used it to raise wages of miners and reduce competition. He gambled on a massive membership drive and won, as he piggybacked on FDR's popularity: "The President wants you to join the UMW!" Coal miners represented many ethnic groups, and Lewis shrewdly realized that they shared a faith in Roosevelt; he was careful not to antagonize any of the ethnic groups, and he appealed to African American members as well. He secured the passage of the Guffey Coal Act in 1935 and then the Guffey-Vinson Act in 1937 when the 1935 act was declared by the US Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, both of them favorable to miners. Lewis had long had the idea that the highly competitive bituminous coal industry, with its sharp ups and downs and cut-throat competition, could be stabilized by a powerful union that set a standard wage scale and could keep recalcitrant owners in line with selective strikes. The acts made that possible, and coal entered a golden era. At all times, Lewis rejected socialism and promoted competitive capitalism.
With the open support of the AFL and the tacit support of the UMWA, Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated and elected President in 1932, and Lewis benefited from the New Deal programs that followed. Many of his members received relief. Lewis helped secure passage of the Guffey Coal Act of 1935, which raised prices and wages, but it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.Thanks to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, union membership grew rapidly, especially in the UMWA. Lewis and the UMW were major financial backers of Roosevelt's reelection in 1936 and were firmly committed to the New Deal.
Lewis obtained from the American Federation of Labor, at its annual convention in 1934, an endorsement of the principle of industrial unionism, as opposed to limitations to skilled workers. His goal was to unionize 400,000 steel workers, using his UMWA resources (augmented by leftists he had expelled in 1928). With the leaders of nine other large industrial unions and the UMWA in November 1935, Lewis formed the "Committee for Industrial Organization" to promote the organization of workers on an industry-wide basis. Key allies were Philip Murray (the UMWA man Lewis picked to head the steel union); Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA); and David Dubinsky of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
The entire CIO group was expelled from the AFL in November 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), with Lewis as the first president. The growth of the CIO was phenomenal in steel, rubber, meat, autos, glass and electrical equipment. In early 1937, his CIO affiliates won collective-bargaining contracts with two of the most powerful anti-union corporations, General Motors and United States Steel. General Motors surrendered as a result of the great Flint Sit-Down Strike, during which Lewis negotiated with company executives, Governor Frank Murphy of Michigan, and President Roosevelt. U.S. Steel conceded without a strike as Lewis secretly negotiated an agreement with Myron Taylor, chairman of U.S. Steel. The CIO gained enormous strength and prestige from the victories in automobiles and steel and escalated its organizing drives, now targeting industries that the AFL have long claimed, especially meatpacking, textiles, and electrical products. The AFL fought back and gained even more members, but the two rivals spent much of their energy fighting each other for members and for power inside local Democratic organizations.
Journalist C. L. Sulzberger described Lewis's rhetorical skill in the "Crust of Bread" speech. Operators who opposed a contract were often shamed into agreement by Lewis's accusations. A typical Lewis speech to operators would go, "Gentlemen, I speak to you for the miners' families.... The little children are gathered around a bare table without anything to eat. They are not asking for a $100,000 yacht like yours, Mr...." (here, he would gesture with his cigar toward an operator), "...or for a Rolls-Royce limousine like yours, Mr. ..." (staring at another operator). They are asking only for a slim crust of bread."
In the presidential election of 1940, Lewis rejected Roosevelt and supported Republican Wendell Willkie. The reasons for Lewis' souring on FDR and his New Deal are still contested. Some cite his frustration over FDR's response to the General Motors and "Little Steel" strikes of 1937, or the President's purported rejection of Lewis' proposal to join him on the 1940 Democratic ticket. Others point to power struggles within the CIO as the motivation for Lewis' actions.Lewis drew fierce criticism from most union leaders. Reuben Soderstrom, President of the Illinois State Federation of Labor, ripped his former ally apart in the press, saying he had become "the most imaginative, the most efficient, the most experienced truth-twisting windbag that this nation has yet produced." Lewis failed to persuade his fellow members. On election day, 85% of CIO members supported Roosevelt, thus rejecting Lewis's leadership. He resigned as president of the CIO but kept control of the UMWA.
Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was staunchly opposed to American entry into World War II. Initially, he tapped into the antimilitarism that animated the left wing of the CIO.He publicly opposed the prospect of a peacetime draft as "associated with fascism, totalitarianism and the breakdown of civil liberties," claiming in his 1940 Labor Day speech that there was "something sinister about the attempt to force conscription upon our nation, with no revelation of the purposes for which conscription is sought." Lewis' opposition to American intervention continued after the leftist coalition against it had splintered. In August of 1941 he joined Herbert Hoover, Alfred Landon, Charles Dawes, and other prominent conservatives in their appeal to Congress to halt President Roosevelt's "step-by-step projection of the United States into undeclared war." The move earned him the enmity of those on the left, including Lee Pressman and Len De Caux. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Lewis threw his full support behind FDR's government, stating "When the nation is attacked every American must rally to its support. All other consideration becomes insignificant...With all other citizens I join in the support of our government to the day of its ultimate triumph over Japan and all other enemies."
In October of 1942, Lewis withdrew the UMWA from the CIO. Six months later, he substantively violated organized labor's no-strike pledge, spurring President Roosevelt to seize the mines.The strike damaged the public's perception of organized labor generally and Lewis specifically; the Gallup poll of June 1943 showed 87% disapproval of Lewis. Some have asserted that Lewis' actions produced shortages which crippled production. This claim, however, is belied by the speed, size, and scope of American wartime production, especially when compared to its rivals. The United States built more airplanes in the year following Lewis' strike than Japan produced from 1938 to 1945 combined. By war's end, the United States was responsible for more than half of worldwide industrial production . All of this was financed by government spending and was largely the result of unionized labor. Fully 85% of the bombs, tanks, ships, planes, guns, and ammunition produced during the war were made by union workers in union shops.
In the postwar years, he continued his militancy; his miners went on strikes or "work stoppages" annually. In 1945 to 1950,he led strikes that President Harry S. Truman denounced as threats to national security. In response, industry, railroads and homeowners rapidly switched from coal to oil.
After briefly affiliating with the AFL, Lewis broke with them again over signing non-Communist oaths required by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, making the UMW independent again. Lewis, never a Communist himself, refused to allow any of his officials to take the non-Communist oath required by the Taft-Hartley Act; the UMW was therefore denied legal rights protected by the National Labor Relations Board. He denounced Taft-Hartley as authorizing "government by injunction" and refused to follow its provisions, saying he would not be dictated to.
Lewis secured a welfare fund financed entirely by the coal companies but administered by the union. In May 1950, he signed a new contract with the coal operators, ending nine months of regional strikes and opening an era of peaceful negotiations that brought wage increases and new medical benefits, including regional hospitals in the hills.
In the 1950s, Lewis won periodic wage and benefit increases for miners and led the campaign for the first Federal Mine Safety Act in 1952. Lewis tried to impose some order on a declining industry through collective bargaining, maintaining standards for his members by insisting that small operators agree to contract terms that effectively put many of them out of business. Mechanization nonetheless eliminated many of the jobs in his industry while scattered non-union operations persisted. [ citation needed ]
Lewis continued to be as autocratic as ever within the UMWA, padding the union payrolls with his friends and family, ignoring or suppressing demands for a rank-and-file voice in union affairs. Finally in 1959 the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act forced reform. It ended the practice where the UMWA had kept a number of its districts in trusteeship for decades, meaning that Lewis appointed union officers who otherwise would have been elected by the membership. [ citation needed ]
Lewis retired in early 1960, as the highly paid membership slipped below 190,000 because of mechanization, strip mining, and competition from oil. He was succeeded as president by Thomas Kennedy until his death in 1963, when he was succeeded by Lewis-anointed successor W. A. Boyle, who was just as dictatorial, but without any of Lewis' leadership skills or vision. [ citation needed ]
On September 14, 1964, four years after his retirement from the UMWA, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson, his citation reading: "[An] eloquent spokesman of labor, [Lewis] has given voice to the aspirations of the industrial workers of the country and led the cause of free trade unions within a healthy system of free enterprise."In 1965, Lewis received the first Eugene V. Debs Award for his service to Industrial Unionism.
Lewis retired to his family home, the Lee-Fendall House in Alexandria, Virginia, where he had lived since 1937. He lived there until his death on June 11, 1969. His passing elicited many kind words and fond remembrances, even from former rivals. "He was my personal friend," wrote Reuben Soderstrom, the President of the Illinois AFL-CIO who had once lambasted Lewis as an "imaginative windbag," upon news of his death. Lewis, he said, would forever be remembered for "making almost a half million poorly paid and poorly protected coal miners the best paid and best protected miners in all the world."He is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois.
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|Trade union offices|
| President of the United Mine Workers |
|New office|| President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations |
|Awards and achievements|
Franklin D. Roosevelt
| Cover of Time Magazine |
4 June 1923
Herbert L. Pratt
The labor history of the United States describes the history of organized labor, US labor law, and more general history of working people, in the United States. Beginning in the 1930s, unions became important components of the Democratic Party. However, some historians question why no Labor Party emerged in the United States, in contrast to Western Europe.
Philip Murray was a Scottish-born steelworker and an American labor leader. He was the first president of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), the first president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and the longest-serving president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
The Coal strike of 1902 was a strike by the United Mine Workers of America in the anthracite coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania. Miners struck for higher wages, shorter workdays and the recognition of their union. The strike threatened to shut down the winter fuel supply to major American cities. At that time, residences were typically heated with anthracite or "hard" coal, which produces higher heat value and less smoke than "soft" or bituminous coal.
John Brophy (1883–1963) was an important figure in the United Mine Workers of America (UWMA) in the 1920s and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s and 1940s. He was the last major challenger to John L. Lewis' power within the UMWA and, after Lewis hired him back, a key leader within the CIO.
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The Progressive Miners of America was a coal miners' union organized in 1932 in downstate Illinois. It was formed in response to a 1932 contract proposal negotiated by United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis, which reduced wages from a previous rate of $6.10 per day to $5.00 per day.
The Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) was one of two precursor labor organizations to the United Steelworkers. It was formed by the CIO on June 7, 1936. It disbanded in 1942 to become the United Steel Workers of America.
Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers was an American labor union formed in 1876 to represent iron and steel workers. It partnered with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee and CIO, in November 1935. Both organizations disbanded May 22, 1942, to form a new organization, the United Steelworkers.
The Bituminous coal strike of 1974 was a 28-day national coal strike in the United States led by the United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO. It is generally considered a successful strike by the union.
The Bituminous coal strike of 1977–1978 was a 110-day national coal strike in the United States led by the United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO. It began December 6, 1977, and ended on March 19, 1978. It is generally considered a successful union strike, although the contract was not beneficial to union members.
Arnold Miller was a miner and labor activist who served as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), AFL-CIO, from 1972 to 1979.
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Reuben George Soderstrom was an American leader of organized labor who served as President of the Illinois State Federation of Labor (ISFL) and Illinois AFL-CIO from 1930–1970. A key figure in Chicago and statewide politics, he also played a pivotal role in American labor history, helping to define national labor policy after the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955. Soderstrom advised and was courted by multiple U.S. Presidents seeking his endorsement. The longest-serving state federation chief in American labor history, he passed seminal labor legislation and grew his organization's membership five-fold, transforming it into one of the most powerful labor bodies in the United States.
The 1927 Indiana bituminous strike was a strike by members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against local bituminous coal companies. Although the struggle raged throughout most of the nation's coal fields, its most serious impact was in western Pennsylvania, including Indiana County. The strike began on April 1, 1927, when almost 200,000 coal miners struck the coal mining companies operating in the Central Competitive Field, after the two sides could not reach an agreement on pay rates. The UMWA was attempting to retain pay raises gained in the contracts it had negotiated in 1922 and 1924, while management, stating that it was under economic pressure from competition with the West Virginia coal mines, was seeking wage reductions. The strike proved to be a disaster for the union, as by 1929, there were only 84,000 paying members of the union, down from 400,000 which belonged to the union in 1920.
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. Created in 1935 by John L. Lewis, who was a part of the United Mine Workers (UMW), it was originally called the Committee for Industrial Organization but changed its name in 1938 when it broke away from the American Federation of Labor. It also changed names because it was not successful with organizing unskilled workers with the AFL.