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The Conflict of the Bituminous Coal Strike of 1946 and the Compromise of the Krug-Lewis Agreement  Thesis: A major conflict occurred when coal miners began a strike and walked out of mines all around the United States in hopes of improving the miners’ working conditions, causing national chaos by creating blackouts, shortages of energy and major industries to shut down, ending with a compromise called the Krug-Lewis agreement. Eventually, the government decided to end the strike with the Krug-Lewis agreement which met the miners’ demands. A second strike took place later that year which caused the United Mine Workers of America and John L. Lewis to be fined, including a restraining order from President Truman.

The second strike finally ended with a new compromise between John L. Lewis and President Truman on the condition that a new agreement would take place to improve the lives of the mine workers.   Tension Rises:         “The National Coal Miner’s Strike of 1946 was part of a national wave of strikes during the immediate post-World War II era among workers and labor unions employed in many industrial sectors–electrical industry, meat packers, steel workers, railroad workers, machinists–.” -James Parvin Quigel Jr.  “During World War II labor unions had adhered to a no-strike pledge to support the war effort.  During that time workers’ wages stagnated while corporate profits increased during the war period.

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  In the post-war period workers demanded wage increases, safe working conditions, and most importantly better health care and pension programs for retirement.” – James Parvin Quigel Jr. “Progressives and the Democratic party supported working class interests during the national wave of strikes.  Corporations, conservative Republicans, and the wealthy perceived the strikes as anti-American and even in some sectors as communist-inspired. ” -James Parvin Quigel Jr. “A little later in 1948 the Taft-Hartley Labor Act was passed which provided for signed loyalty oaths on the part of unions, pledging that they (and their members) were not affiliated with the Communist Party.

” -James Parvin Quigel Jr. Conflict: “When corporations and industries did not meet these demands and also attempted to roll back labor gains made during the New Deal period, labor unions used the strike as the last resort. The Coal Miners’ strike of 1946 was national and scope and was initiated by John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers of America on April 1, 1946 who called out 400,000 miners out of the fields in support of the strike.”-James Parvin Quigel Jr. The strike began in Pittsburg and caused many industries that to shut down, causing about 25 million people to lose their jobs and many power outages throughout the country.  “Bituminous is a classification, a rank, of coal. It is common (there are 3 others, lignite, subbituminous, bituminous, and anthracite), is has a high calorific value (energy content related upon combustion).

 Nothing works as well as coal (most biomass will be much lower calorific value).”-Jonathan Matthews “Mining difficulty depends on depth, thickness, and angle so it is complex.”-Jonathan Matthews “Other fuel sources are not as reliable and in most cases more expensive so more costly electricity and lower reliability.” -Jonathan Matthews   Compromise: “The Coal Strike of 1946 and other labor strikes had a tremendous impact on the whole nation’s economic infrastructure, impacting industry, businesses, transportation, the movement and shipment of goods and products, heating and fuel.  All Americans were affected.” -James Parvin Quigel Jr.  “The potential severity of the strike wave was such that the federal government seized control of the mines and railroads to continue operations in these key industries.

  As with all strikes, workers and their families have the most to lose, including possibly their jobs.”-James Parvin Quigel Jr.   “The government intervened under President Truman to initiate executive actions and federal injunctions to force miners’ back to work and for the government to seize mining and railroad operations in the interests of the public.  Then, under Truman’s guidance, to force both labor and management back to the bargaining table to hammer out a compromise and agreement on wages on May 29, 1946 between John L. Lewis and Julius A.

Krug, working conditions, and provisions for miners’ pension and retirement security.” -James Parvin Quigel Jr. “The coal tax to be paid by mine operators in support of miners’ health initiatives and pension programs…

“-James Parvin Quigel Jr.  A New Conflict and the Last Compromise: On October 21, 1946, Julius A. Krug and Lewis began a dispute.

 Lewis said that Krug breached the Krug-Lewis agreement and wanted to reopen it, and Krug denied all accusations. On October 29,1946, the court found that Lewis was correct and the case was reopened, Lewis served a notice that on November 20, 1946, he would consider the contract to an end, and begin another strike.  At midnight on November 20, 1946, another 140,000 miners walked out in 12 different states.  “…

the strike had a more pronounced impact in the poorest states and regions of America. Appalachia (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky) and the deep south (Alabama) were hit hardest by the strike.” -James Parvin Quigel Jr.   On December 7, 1946, Lewis called off the strikes in the condition that a new contract would be negotiated and that the Krug-Lewis agreement would be terminated. The United Mine Workers of America had to fully comply with the restraining order and when they did, the Krug-Lewis agreement was formally withdrawn on March 25, 1947.

  “I have pleaded your case from the pulpit and from the public platform – not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a maighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled.” John L. Lewis   Quotes:   “He is a Hitler at heart, a demagogue in action, and a traitor in fact. In 1942 he should have been hanged for treason.

” – President Harry S. Truman, December 11, 1946.   “For the first time he found no pipe line to the White House. I had a fully loyal team and that team whipped a damned traitor.” – President Harry S. Truman, December 11, 1946  “The 1946 coal strike is the most momentous event in the country’s peacetime history.”                        -Evansville Courier 1946  “I’m just an old coal miner and I labor for my bread.” – George Gershon Korson in Sprinkle Coal Dust on My Grave  “For the sake of wife and baby how a miner is his life for the price of just a little lump of coal.

” -George Gershon Korson in Sprinkle Coal Dust on My Grave   “Let the flowers be forgotten, sprinkle coal dust on my grave, in remembrance of the UMWA.” -George Gershon Korson in Sprinkle Coal Dust on My Grave       Timeline:  April 1, 1946- Strike begins. May 21, 1946- President Harry S. Truman seizes mines.

 May 29, 1946- John L. Lewis ends strike and begins plans for new agreement. October 21, 1946- Julius A.

 Krug and Lewis dispute over breached agreement. October 29,1946- Court reopens the case. November 20, 1946- Lewis considers contract terminated and begins new strike. November 29, 1946- Lewis receives restraining order from government. December 3, 1946- December 4, 1946- Judge Goldsborough finds Lewis and UMWA guilty of criminal and civil contempt of court, and fines the UMWA $3,500,000 and Lewis $10,000 personally.

 December 7, 1946- Lewis calls off strikes. March 6, 1947- Court reduces fines to the United Mine Workers from $3,500,000 to $700,000.  March 8, 1947-  UMWA Attorney asks court to rush new contract to 25 days earlier and court agrees. Also, government askes the Supreme Court to take away some rights earned by miners to have more power over the miners but  Supreme Court rejects.

 March 17, 1947- Court reduces amount of days rushed for a new contract to 11 days and orders that within five days, they must fully comply with the original restraining order and fines to get new contract.  March 25, 1947- UMWA fully comply with conditions and Krug-Lewis agreement formally withdrawn. March 29, 1947- Six-day holiday declared by Lewis to remember victims of miners who lost lives in mines. March 31, 1947- Six-day holiday begins. April 6, 1947- Six-day holiday ends. Later announced that between July 29, 1946 and March 5, 1947, 1,723 safety inspections and about 46, 521 mines violating safety codes. Shortly after, Secretary Krug calls governors of 15 states to “correct dangerous conditions” in 162 coal mines not in government possession.


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