The Textile Workers vs. United Mine Workers Strike

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Annotated Bibliography

Colorado Encyclopedia. (n.d.). United mine workers of America. Colorado Encyclopedia. Web.

With over 700 primary entries on the state’s history and culture, the Colorado Encyclopedia is the foremost online reference book on the Centennial State. It has been acknowledged as a reliable source. The Colorado Encyclopedia provides data on the United Mine Workers of America and discusses origins, formations, and strikes.

Figinski, T. F., & Troland, E. (2018). Health insurance, hospitals, or both? Evidence from the United Mine Workers’ Health Care Programs in Appalachia. Labor: Public Policy & Regulation. Web.

The research by Figinski and Troland studies whether the government should support either health insurance or health care facilities, or both. For many decades, the United States has financed both, focusing on underserved populations and geographic areas. The authors investigate these problems in the first thorough quantitative examination of two significant natural experiments in the Appalachian coal region. The paper addresses the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a coal mining organization that started offering free health insurance to coal miners and their families.

Higdon, J., & Robertson, M. (2020). The role of public benefits in supporting workers and communities affected by energy transition. Resources for the Future. Web.

This is the third study in a series issued by Resources for the Future (RFF) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that explores policies and initiatives to promote justice for workers and communities as the economy transitions to a low–greenhouse gas emissions economy. Higdon and Robertson emphasize programs and interventions that can help laborers and communities in areas where coal, oil, and oil and gas production or consumption has been a source of employment and economic engine. Thus, the study focuses on federal public benefit programs, including specific industry-specific initiatives.

Koppekin, S. (2019). History of the labor movement: The textile workers’ strike of 1934. Medium. Web.

Stephen Koppekin, the author of the article and the founder of Koppekin Consulting, is dedicated to building better workplaces for everybody. He recounts the history of the labor movement, highlighting the 1934 Textile Workers’ Strike. The author discusses how the strike lasted twenty-two days before many state politicians brought in the National Guard to safeguard the mills and owners. The UTW began to run out of resources, and there was an excess of textile supply at the time, resulting in a sudden halt in operations.

Lee, E. (2021). Lessons of the 1934 Textile Strike: Their relevance for today. Left Voice. Web.

Left Voice is a news portal and magazine committed to supporting a long-term and strategic fight against all forms of exploitation and injustice. Furthermore, Left Voice explores the actions of the American working class. The article by Lee indicates the lessons obtained from the 1934 textile strike. Lee acknowledges that in the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of U.S. textile workers formed unions in an industry that had already been experiencing economic distress before the Great Depression. Exploitative workplace environments in the South sparked one of the most significant labor strikes in U.S. history, resulting in a crushing loss.

Murray, J. (n.d.). Textile strike of 1934. North Carolina History Project. Web.

The goal of the North Carolina History Project is to inspire a wide range of historical topics and highlight disregarded or forgotten historical issues; it aims to engage communities in the study of history. Murray describes the textile strike of 1934, addressing reasons and consequences. In 1929, the textile industry in the United States began to suffer. Wages plummeted, and mill management increased individual worker duties while prohibiting rest breaks in order to cut expenses. Nevertheless, the roots of the 1934 strike were not in the severe economic state of the United States textile industry but the adoption of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA).

Talmadge, E. (n.d.) Martial law in Georgia. Georgia Journeys. Web.

Georgia Journeys follows the lives of service members, home front laborers, and Holocaust survivors in Georgia. The source presents data on the textile strike of 1934, its causes, and results. Textile workers went on strike on September 1st, 1934, to protest NIRA violations. This strike swiftly became the most significant labor protest in Southern history. When the strike ended, textile laborers returned to unsafe and poor working conditions, and many strikers were not permitted to continue working in the mills.

The UMWA Archive. (n.d.). United mine workers of America history. UMWA. Web.

This is the official website of the UMWA, which explains the union’s goals, history, and accomplishments. Significantly, the United Mine Workers of America has held unrivaled dominance throughout American labor history. In the twentieth century, the UMWA spearheaded the movement to create collective agreements in American industrial life. Artifacts and records can be found in the UMWA Archive.

Introduction

The two strikes selected are the Textile Workers Strike of 1934 and United Mine Workers of America of 1946, briefly UMWA. The paper addresses the strikes’ origins, management treatment of employees, commonalities, causes, possible avoidance, and the outcomes. Murray (n.d.) states that textile workers in the southern United States went on strike in 1934, a year after establishing the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Despite their numerous issues, including long working hours and poor earnings, the absence of labor representation in the NRA’s textile regulatory body most likely provoked the protest. In 1929, the textile industry in the United States began to suffer. Wages plummeted, and mill management imposed a ‘stretch-out,’ increasing individual workers’ duties while prohibiting rest periods and other breaks from cutting expenses (Murray, n.d.). Essentially, the beginnings of the 1934 strike, nevertheless, were not in the severe economic state of the United States textile industry but the adoption of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933.

The United Mine Workers of America has demonstrated unrivaled leadership throughout American labor history. In the twentieth century, the UMWA spearheaded the fight to create collective bargaining in American industrial life (The UMWA Archive, n.d.). Additionally, its ideals and programs, strength and solidarity, and excellent leaders have served as an inspiration to generations of working families for over a hundred years. In April 1946, UMWA President John L. Lewis announced a countrywide strike to secure union-sponsored healthcare, another component of miners’ life that stayed under the company’s control (Colorado Encyclopedia, n.d.).

Company physicians were rewarded by downplaying illnesses like black lung, a severe respiratory ailment induced by inhaling coal dust. The 1946 strike encompassed 400,000 miners from twenty-six states, including Colorado, where coal mines in Routt County were unproductive, and railways from Steamboat Springs to Aspen ran lesser trains (Colorado Encyclopedia, n.d.). President Harry Truman eventually recognized the protest as a danger to the country’s postwar economic growth. Therefore, he terminated it by providing UMWA leadership with an agreement that established the UMWA health and welfare fund, which continues to assist union members today.

The significant difference between the strikes that set the two apart is that the Textile Workers Strike ultimately failed, and the UMWA strike succeed. The Textile Workers Strike lasted more than twenty days but failed because of the lack of public support and a glut of textiles in the South (Murray, n.d.). None of the employees’ requests were satisfied; numerous laborers were eventually blocklisted due to their participation in the strike. In contrast, the UMWA Strike in 1946 brought results to American labor. Higdon and Roberson (2020) state that the UMWA and the coal industry reached an agreement in 1946, formalized as the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds, to ensure pensions and sufficient medical coverage for coal mines. The agreement, known as the Promise of 1946, ended a countrywide miners’ strike that had begun following World War II (Higdon & Robertson, 2020). The UMWA manages multiemployer benefit schemes supported by payments from mining businesses and employees and provides benefits to qualifying miners.

Management Treatment of Employees

The management treatment of employees is different in the selected strikes. For instance, Textile workers formed the United Textile Workers Union and began laying the groundwork for a strike. Despite growth in membership from 27,500 in 1932 to 270,000 in 1934, the UTW was unably reaching an agreement with mill owners (Koppekin, 2019). The first time the UTW threatened a strike was in June 1934, and the strike began in mid-August. Koppenkin (2019) informs that the protest lasted 22 days before numerous state authorities brought in the National Guard to safeguard mill owners and workers. The UTW began to run out of resources, and there was an excess of textile supply at the time, resulting in an abrupt halt in production (Koppekin, 2019). The strike ended on September 23, shortly after President Roosevelt addressed the striking workers and requested them to return to work.

Moreover, the Textile Workers Strike concluded with little progress for the UTW or the employees. According to Lee (2021), the 1934 textile strike highlights the crucial role unions play in the class struggle, as well as how vital it is that they be managed by the rank-and-file employees themselves. Since too frequently, their leadership and management are willing to accept tiny compromises or even outright loss rather than continue the strike (Lee, 2021). In this case, the strike was a disaster for textile unions across the country. The strike was announced without appropriate preparations for the hundreds of thousands of workers summoned to join the protest (Lee, 2021). It is a powerful lesson for today’s working class that the lack of a vote by the rank and file was a critical error made by union officials; collective activity, including decision making, strengthens union fights. The textile union was unwilling to confront the state machinery, which was activated at the first hint of a challenge to capitalist profits and power (Lee, 2021). Therefore, the union had not adequately created a working-class organization capable of confronting the bourgeoisie’s authority.

The management treatment of employees in the second strike, namely UMWA, was better organized. The union was founded in 1890, and it managed numerous strikes before the 1946 coal miners’ strike. For instance, The UMWA’s first selective strike occurred in 1978, following a 110-day coal strike (The UMWA Archive, n.d.). One of the most significant UMWA strikes happened in 1989 when 50,000 employees in 11 states used civil disobedience and nonviolent activities to maintain health care and retiree benefits for workers throughout the country (The UMWA Archive, n.d.). Essentially, following the 1946 coal miners’ strike, the UMWA obtained the formation of a fund to give nonwage benefits to all miners, funded by a per ton royalty tax on coal output as part of a collective bargaining deal brokered by the U.S. government (Figinski & Troland, 2018). Retirement, disability, and a free health insurance scheme for miners and their families were among the benefits provided.

Commonalities

The commonalities of the selected strikes are that they were both organized to improve the working conditions of U.S. labor. For instance, textile workers throughout the country marched out of mills in September 1934, launching a weeks-long protest for better pay and working conditions (Talmadge, n.d.). The Textile Strike of 1934 followed the Great Depression’s ever-expanding workdays, lower salaries, and increased unemployment. Talmadge (n.d.) emphasizes that when the United States Congress established the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, considered part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, textile employees grew optimistic that their everyday working circumstances would improve. The federal government forced firms to shorten employees’ workdays, boost salaries, and enable workers to form a union under the NIRA (Talmadge, n.d.).

The dreams of textile workers were crushed when textile mill owners across the country disobeyed federal statutes and regulations safeguarding employees’ rights. Similarly, the purpose of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) strike was to fight for improved wages, working conditions, and healthcare benefits for coal miners across the country.

Causes

The causes of the Textile Workers Strike were terrible working conditions and low wages. Lee (2021) informs that by 1933, one out of every four employees in the United States was jobless. For those who did have employment, hours were drastically reduced, with inadequate incomes barely covering basic living expenses. Higher-skilled employees fared better than their less-skilled peers, primarily working in farms and factories. These employees were displaced in vast numbers, and individuals in states whose economy relied heavily on agriculture and industrial jobs suffered greatly (Lee, 2021). Significantly, textile workers throughout the South became tired of working long hours for inadequate pay. The region’s labor-organizing atmosphere was harsher than that of the North; higher anti-union sentiment meant that unionization rates were around half that of the rest of the country.

Notably, textile workers suffered as a result of the Textile Industry Committee’s code. Though salaries initially increased under the committee, a shift from a 40-hour to a 30-hour workday permitted the committee to cut weekly earnings by twenty-five percent (Murray, n.d.). Textile employees began flocking to the United Textile Workers (UTW), the textile industry’s major labor union, in enormous numbers. Murray (n.d.) claims that the shortening of the workweek was the direct cause of the strike. Despite a considerable rise in membership, the UTW could not bargain with mill owners successfully (Murray, n.d.). As a result, in June 1934, the UTW threatened to strike in order to avoid another proposed workweek cut. In mid-August, the UTW began planning a nationwide strike in order to get formal recognition from textile manufacturers.

The United Mine Workers was founded in the Midwestern coalfields, where industrial fatalities and penalties for labor agitation were prevalent. According to Colorado Encyclopedia (n.d.), the UMWA was founded on January 25, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio, by two Ohio-based organizations, the Knights of Labor and the National Miners’ Federation. Their constitution called for negotiation, adjudication, and unique approaches to improve miners’ wages and working conditions. Figinski and Troland (2018) acknowledge that between 1944 and 1948, almost 235,000 coal miners were murdered or wounded on the job.

Furthermore, coal miners died at around double the rate of the general working male population. Miners may get black lung disease in the long run as a result of breathing in the carbon material found in mines, which coats the lungs (Figinski & Troland, 2018). Hence, given the restricted availability of health care and the health effects of coal mining jobs, improving healthcare became more vital than income increases for many miners in the 1940s. Therefore, the fundamental cause of the strike in 1946 was the necessity for improved working conditions and, especially, access to healthcare.

Possible Avoidance

Essentially, management should focus on employees’ well-being and level of satisfaction to minimize the strike potential. Employees often join unions because they are dissatisfied with the management treatment and expect the union to improve working conditions and answer their demands. Thus, management should implement fair and consistent rules and procedures, ensure a safe and healthy working environment, offer competitive wages and benefits, and foster trust. Employees are far less likely to strike in a workplace that creates good relationships between management and employees and addresses labor disputes.

As was mentioned before, both strikes, namely the Textile Workers Strike of 1934 and United Mine Workers of America of 1946, started because of low wages and inadequate and unhealthy working conditions. Essentially, the management could avoid strikes if established timely communication and issues resolution to understand and satisfy the labor requirements. It is crucial to consider employees’ safety and self-actualization and offer possible solutions to problems.

Outcome and Winner

The Textile Workers Strike had failed, and while both workers and union representatives suffered the consequences, it was the rank and file that endured the most. Lee (2021) argue that Many factual and subjective elements led to the tragic defeat of the 1934 textile strike. Using the flying squadrons as a pretext, 10,000 National Guardsmen were deployed in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi by mid-September, supported by additional 1,500-armed deputies. They were stationed at mill gates and on the outskirts of factories to guard private property and unionized workers. This deployment intensified the clashes and weakened public sympathy for the strikers even further. The strikers’ cause was hurt by an excess of textile supply, which diminished the public’s impression of the workers’ indispensability (Lee, 2021).

Workers were well aware that the strike was far from triumphant. Aside from minor improvements in their minimum pay, the employees were back to the starting point, although with a highly tarnished image. Frustrated mill owners refused to rehire strike participants instead of blocklisting them and evicting them from company housing.

The lack of movement toward a favorable resolution for the UTW demonstrated that the union lacked the resources required to maintain the Textile Workers Strike. Excess textile supply damaged the strikers’ cause even more. Murray (n.d.) states that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a mediation team, which decided that the textile workers’ claims warranted further investigation, but no real government action was done on their behalf. The main effect of the mediation panel was to exert pressure on employees to return to the mills. On September 23, 1934, the strike ended when President Roosevelt personally urged the striking employees to return to the mills (Murray, n.d.). The UTW achieved no advances during the strike, leaving the union with little clout throughout the duration of the Depression. Therefore, there is no winner because management did not succeed in ensuring proper working conditions, and employees did not achieve their goals.

The United Mine Workers of America of 1946 strike is an excellent example where both management and labor can be considered the winner. The strikes’ requirements were satisfied, and the management also started to treat the workforce better; moreover, health and welfare funds were created for miners. The strike also impacted authority since President Harry Truman seized the coal mines, culminating in a contract signed in the White House that contributed to the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds’ activity.

Conclusion

The primary difference between the strikes is that the Textile Workers Strike eventually failed, whereas the UMWA strike succeeded. The selected strikes had one thing in common: they were both organized to improve the working conditions of laborers. In September 1934, textile workers across the country stepped out of mills, initiating a weeks-long protest for improved pay and working conditions. Similarly, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) strike in 1946 was intended to fight for better salaries, labor practices, and healthcare benefits for coal miners across the country. Significantly, miners who breathe in the carbon substance present in mines, which coats the lungs, may develop black lung disease in the long run. As a result of the limited availability of health care and the negative health repercussions of coal mining occupations, enhancing healthcare became critical, resulting in the strike. Both strikes began as a result of low wages and poor and unsafe working conditions.

The 1934 Textile Workers Strike ended with no success for either the UTW or the workforce. Nonetheless, during the 1946 coal miners’ strike, the UMWA was successful in establishing a fund to provide nonwage benefits to all miners, which was supported by a per ton royalty fee on coal extraction as part of a collective bargaining agreement mediated by the U.S. authorities. Among the benefits granted were retirement, disability, and a free health insurance program for miners and their families. Essentially, strikes might be avoided if management developed efficient communication issue resolution and ensured a healthy working environment. Employees frequently join unions because they are unsatisfied with the treatment they receive from management and expect the union to improve working conditions and respond to their requests. As a result, management should establish fair and consistent rules and processes, provide a safe and healthy working environment, guarantee competitive salaries and benefits, and promote trust.

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BusinessEssay. 2022. "The Textile Workers vs. United Mine Workers Strike." December 25, 2022. https://business-essay.com/the-textile-workers-vs-united-mine-workers-strike/.

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BusinessEssay. "The Textile Workers vs. United Mine Workers Strike." December 25, 2022. https://business-essay.com/the-textile-workers-vs-united-mine-workers-strike/.