Labor Union

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

United Mine Workers of America logo (link)
Website:

umwa.org/

Location:

Triangle, VA

Tax ID:

53-0159200

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(5)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $24,466,930
Expenses: $25,235,644
Assets: $170,201,239

Formation:

1890

President:

Cecil E. Roberts

AFL-CIO

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is a labor union that historically represented miners, though today it also counts health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers, and government employees among its members. UMWA is a member of the AFL-CIO labor federation.

History

Early Years

United Mine Workers of America was formed in 1890 through the consolidation of the National Progressive Union of Miners and Mine Laborers and the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135. In 1897, UMWA led a two-month strike of mine workers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that sparked the “Lattimer Massacre,” in which a Pennsylvania sheriff’s posse attacked striking miners, wounding scores of people and killing 19. Mass unrest followed, especially after the sheriff and his deputies were acquitted in a criminal trial. The incident led to mass organizing among mine workers and substantial growth for UMWA. [1] [2]

In 1902, UMWA led a strike of anthracite miners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. After ten months, the country faced a national coal shortage that threatened to deprive American homes of winter heating and had depressed industrial production. President Theodore Roosevelt convened an unprecedented meeting of mine owners and UMWA organizers at a townhouse adjacent to the White House. The union was the first ever recognized by the federal government as a collective bargaining unit for 150,000 anthracite coal miners, despite UMWA only having 8,000 anthracite mining members. Roosevelt eventually created a commission (a precursor to the U.S. Department of Labor) that investigated working conditions in the mines and forced operators to accept pay increases and an 8-hour work day. [3]

In 1913, UMWA led workers at a Colorado mine owned by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. to strike after a company police force killed a union organizer. The bitter strike would lead the state governor to call out the Colorado National Guard, and intermittent violence broke out on both sides. When workers were forcibly ejected from “company towns” with no means of buying food or finding shelter, UMWA organized tent cities and labor agitators conducted hit and run operations to destroy mining infrastructure. Over the course of a year, an estimated 200 people on both sides would be killed in what was called the “Colorado Coalfield Wars.” The violence culminated in the April 1914 “Ludlow Massacre,” a pitched battle in which 13 children of mine workers were killed and a mining camp was burned to the ground. [4] [5]

John L. Lewis

In 1920, labor organizer John L. Lewis, an Iowa-born coal miner, became president of the United Mine Workers of America, a post he held until 1960. Lewis was also the founding president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which merged with the American Federation of Labor to create the AFL-CIO in 1955. An often-authoritarian leader, Lewis is credited with helping to purge the UMWA of Communist elements. [6] He also championed technological and labor-saving innovations that increased mining efficiency and, some supporters believe, helped to preserve American mining jobs by making the industry more productive and profitable. [7]

Lewis would be heavily criticized when — in violation of a no-strike policy adopted by the labor movement during World War II — he led mine workers to strike in 1943 over wage freezes that hurt mining families at a time of substantial inflation. The strike crippled steel production and Lewis’ home in Alexandria, Virginia was vandalized by angry protestors. Citing wartime authority, President Franklin Roosevelt nationalized coal mines and put them under the control of Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Ickes oversaw months of negotiations between the operators and UMWA before a new wage agreement was reached. Angered by the strike, Congress (over Roosevelt’s veto) passed the Smith-Connally Act, which mandated a “cooling off” period before a strike could be called and reaffirmed federal authority to seize and operate industrial sites critical to defense efforts. [8] [9]

Krug-Lewis Agreement

In 1946, Lewis initiated a strike of 400,000 bituminous coal miners, seeking health care concessions for union workers and retirees. The strike quickly crippled industrial production and President Harry Truman feared that it would hamper the post-war transition to a civilian economy. Using his powers under the Smith-Connally Act and other legislation, Truman nationalized U.S. coal mines, ordering miners back to work. Truman then brokered the Krug-Lewis agreement between the United Mine Workers of America and Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug. [10]

Called “the Promise of 1946” by UMWA, the Krug-Lewis Agreement exchanged an end to the strike for improvements in mine safety, vacation pay, and health care and retirement benefits for miners and their families. The agreement would lead, in 1947, to the creation of the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds, which were funded by an assessment on coal produced from U.S. mines, as well as deductions from miners’ paychecks. [11] [12]

Murder of Joseph Yablonski

After Lewis’s retirement in 1960, United Mine Workers of America was led for three years by Thomas Kennedy, who died in 1963. Lewis then hand-picked Kennedy’s successor, a long-time Montana organizer named William “Tony” Boyle. Boyle faced internal opposition, especially from local activists who wanted more autonomy from the UMWA leadership, and he was dogged by charges of corruption and nepotism. He was also heavily criticized by families for acquiescing in the mine operator’s decision to seal off a mine shaft that exploded in Farmington, West Virginia in 1968, leaving the bodies of 19 miners interred underground. [13]

Boyle was challenged for union leadership by Joseph “Jock” Yablonski, a Pennsylvania organizer who advocated for union reforms. Boyle defeated Yablonski in a union election in 1969 that Yablonski alleged was marred by fraud. On New Year’s Eve in 1969, Yablonski, his wife, and their 25-year-old daughter were murdered by three itinerant high school dropouts hired by a union associate of Boyle, who had appropriated $20,000 in UMWA funds to carry out the killing. [14]

Persistent campaigning by Yablonski’s son Chip, a lawyer who later became UMWA general counsel, would result in a federal judge invalidating Boyle’s election. He was replaced by Arnold Miller, a West Virginia miner who had been diagnosed with black lung disease, a form of emphysema caused by exposure to fine carbon particles created by mining. Boyle was convicted of embezzlement and, in 1973, arrested for Yablonski’s murder. Convicted in 1974, Boyle was sentenced to three life terms and died in federal prison in 1985. [15] [16]

Financial and Membership Decline

In the decades after World War II, United Mine Workers of America continued to advocate for pro-mining legislation such as the 1968 Mine Act and the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. It also called out strikers in 1978 and again in 1989. [17]

In 1993, then-UMWA president Richard Trumka ordered 17,000 workers to walk off jobs with Peabody Coal in West Virginia, reportedly telling strikers to “kick the shit” out of employers and workers who resisted the union. Strikers reportedly vandalized homes, shot at a mine office, and cut power to another mine, temporarily trapping 93 miners underground. A non-union equipment operator was shot in the back and killed. Disclaiming responsibility for the violence, Trumka declared, “I’m saying if you strike a match and put your finger in, common sense tells you you’re going to burn your finger.” [18] Trumka was elected president of the AFL-CIO in 2009. [19]

The union began to suffer serious financial and membership declines in 1970s and 1980s as mine operators went bankrupt and mining operations moved overseas. UMWA membership declined to 240,000 in 1998 from about 500,000 members in 1946. In the 2000s, coal mining in the United States declined precipitously due to spiraling mining costs and environmental regulations that took coal-powered electrical plants offline. UMWA membership declined further; by 2019, there were only about 10,000 UMWA members actively working in mines. [20]

In 2017, UMWA faced what an industry observer called a “life-and-death” test, as it sought funding from Congress to prop up the UMWA Health and Retirement Fund, which was facing exhaustion after dozens of coal mining companies declared bankruptcy in an effort to shed medical and pension expenses. [21] Conservatives argued that the Krug-Lewis Agreement was outdated and opposed Congressional funding the union’s medical and pension obligations. [22] Congress eventually agreed to assume funding responsibilities for more than 22,000 mine workers and their widows and dependents. [23]

Activities

After endorsing Barack Obama for president in 2008, United Mine Workers of America declined to endorse him in 2012. The union made no endorsement in 2016, because many UMWA members were angered by comments from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that she would put coal companies “out of business.” UMWA also declined to make an endorsement in the 2020 presidential election, though support for President Donald Trump in the union’s membership was reportedly substantial. [24]

In 2021, UMWA urged its close ally, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation, arguing that it contained provision that would benefit mine workers being treated for black lung disease. [25] Manchin’s opposition would eventually doom the legislation in a closely divided Senate. In July 2022, the union applauded Manchin’s decision to back a pared down climate bill that expands tax credits for carbon-capture technology that could allow coal or gas-burning power plants to keep operating. [26]

References

  1. “History.” United Mine Workers of America. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/about/history/ ^
  2. Paul A. Shackel. “How a 1897 Massacre of Pennsylvania Coal Miners Morphed From a Galvanizing Crisis to Forgotten History.” Smithsonian Magazine. March 13, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-1897-massacre-pennsylvania-coal-miners-morphed-galvanizing-crisis-forgotten-history-180971695/ ^
  3. Jonathan Grossman. “The Coal Strike of 1902: Turning Point in U.S. Policy.” U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/coalstrike ^
  4. “History.” United Mine Workers of America. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/about/history/ ^
  5. Natalie Larsen. “The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914.” Intermountain Histories. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/219 ^
  6. “John L. Lewis.” AFL-CIO. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://aflcio.org/about/history/labor-history-people/john-lewis ^
  7. A.H. Lewis. “John L. Lewis and the Mine Workers.” The Atlantic. May 1963. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1963/05/john-l-lewis-and-the-mine-workers/658284/ ^
  8. Dwight Jon Zimmerman. “The Home Front in 1943: Strikes, Stress, and Scandals.” Defense Media Network. June 29, 2013. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-home-front-in-1943-strikes-stress-and-scandals/ ^
  9. Art Preis. “How miners defied ‘no-strike’ pledge in WW II.” The Militant. August 1, 2005. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.themilitant.com/2005/6929/692913.html ^
  10. Rachel Greszler. “Government Intervention in Coal Mining Seven Decades Ago No Justification for Pension Bailout Today.” Heritage Foundation. September 6, 2016. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.heritage.org/social-security/report/government-intervention-coal-mining-seven-decades-ago-no-justification/ ^
  11. “The Promise of 1946.” United Mine Workers of America. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/news-media/journal/the-promise-of-1946/ ^
  12. Rachel Greszler. “Government Intervention in Coal Mining Seven Decades Ago No Justification for Pension Bailout Today.” Heritage Foundation. September 6, 2016. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.heritage.org/social-security/report/government-intervention-coal-mining-seven-decades-ago-no-justification/ ^
  13. Vince Guerreri. “Fifty Years Ago, the Murder of Jock Yablonski Shocked the Labor Movement.” Smithsonian Magazine. December 31, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/fifty-years-ago-murder-jock-yablonski-changed-labor-movement-180973881/ ^
  14. Vince Guerreri. “Fifty Years Ago, the Murder of Jock Yablonski Shocked the Labor Movement.” Smithsonian Magazine. December 31, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/fifty-years-ago-murder-jock-yablonski-changed-labor-movement-180973881/ ^
  15. Vince Guerreri. “Fifty Years Ago, the Murder of Jock Yablonski Shocked the Labor Movement.” Smithsonian Magazine. December 31, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/fifty-years-ago-murder-jock-yablonski-changed-labor-movement-180973881/ ^
  16. Burt A. Folkart. “Ex-Union Chief Tony Boyle, 83, Dies.” Los Angeles Times. June 1, 1985. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-06-01-fi-5505-story.html ^
  17. “History.” United Mine Workers of America. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/about/history/ ^
  18. Carl Horowitz. “AFL-CIO’s Trumka Denounces Town Meeting ‘Mobs,’ Ignores His Own.” National Legal and Policy Center. August 7, 2009. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://freerepublic.com/focus/news/2310623/posts ^
  19. Richard Trumka. “AFL-CIO 2009 Convention Acceptance Speech.” C-SPAN.org. September 16, 2009. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.c-span.org/video/?288957-1/aflcio-2009-convention ^
  20. “History.” United Mine Workers of America. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/about/history/ ^
  21. Dylan Brown. “Mining union faces ‘life-and-death’ test.” E&E News. April 11, 2017. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/eenews/1060052929 ^
  22. Rachel Greszler. “Government Intervention in Coal Mining Seven Decades Ago No Justification for Pension Bailout Today.” Heritage Foundation. September 6, 2016. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.heritage.org/social-security/report/government-intervention-coal-mining-seven-decades-ago-no-justification/ ^
  23. “UMWA urges Congress to pass spending deal as soon as possible.” United Mine Workers of America. May 1, 2017. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://umwa.org/news-media/press/umwa-urges-congress-pass-spending-deal-soon-possible/ ^
  24. Holly Otterbein and Megan Cassella. “Rank-and-file union members snub Biden for Trump.” Politico. September 22, 2020. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/22/donald-trump-union-support-snub-joe-biden-418329 ^
  25. Cheryl Teh. “The United Mine Workers of America is urging Sen. Manchin to rethink his opposition to Build Back Better.” Business Insider. December 20, 2021. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.businessinsider.com/coal-miners-union-manchin-rethink-no-to-build-back-better-2021-12 ^
  26. Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman. “Democrats got a climate bill, Manchin got drilling.” New York Times. July 30, 2022. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2022/jul/30/democrats-got-a-climate-bill-manchin-got-drilling/ ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Richard Trumka
    Former President
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: April 1, 1938

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Dec Form 990 $24,466,930 $25,235,644 $170,201,239 $11,803,936 N $0 $14,284,329 $5,030,106 $2,270,872
    2018 Dec Form 990 $21,483,301 $36,124,859 $171,037,373 $11,898,770 N $0 $15,241,340 $3,003,642 $2,589,697 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $31,396,432 $25,659,698 $175,179,310 $959,948 N $0 $14,847,636 $3,516,022 $2,651,526 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $33,163,936 $29,511,643 $184,026,813 $462,786 N $0 $20,967,753 $5,527,737 $1,921,750 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $29,931,549 $32,768,912 $180,363,149 $409,846 N $0 $21,948,109 $3,952,570 $2,654,555 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $31,928,933 $27,467,291 $183,343,688 $553,022 N $0 $22,383,370 $8,771,267 $2,084,587 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $27,845,404 $28,668,109 $179,226,418 $897,394 N $0 $21,965,627 $5,282,131 $2,666,082 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)


    Triangle, VA