Date of Graduation

1972

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

The United Mine Workers of America began encouraging mechanization and concentration in the coal mining industry immediately after the end of World War II. The coal industry was in danger of losing primary markets, such as home heating and the railroads, and in order to obtain new markets, a competitive relationship with other basic fuels had to be assured. The various actions that the union encouraged were a restructuring of the industry so as to create more efficient and concentrated production units; higher wage rates and mine mechanization so as to assist the industry in obtaining greater volume at lower per unit costs; and improvement of labor-management relations so as to assure uninterrupted production to new markets, such as the growing electric utility market. The operators agreed to cooperate with the union in implementing these goals when both parties signed the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950, the first industry-wide agreement that is also frequently referred to as the Mechanization Agreement. The focus of this study is the impact of the United Mine Workers' encouragement of mechanization on the union and on worker earnings, health, safety, and welfare in the bituminous coal mining industry from 1946 to 1971. Data and information obtained from government 292 documents, labor-management reports, congressional testimony, court decisions, industry and union publications, unpublished and personal materials, publications of dissident miner organizations, and personal interviews are thoroughly analyzed. The primary conclusions of the study are: 1) since the advent of mechanization, average annual earnings of coal miners have increased at a slower rate than the average annual earnings of workers in the benchmark steel and motor vehicle industries; 2) the advent of mechanization was not accompanied by an improved worker safety record; 3) since the advent of mechanization, conditions that adversely affect the health of working coal miners have developed; 4) since the advent of mechanization, benefits available from the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund have increased at a slower rate than benefits available to union employees in the benchmark steel and motor vehicle industries; and 5) since the advent of mechanization, the economic interests of both the United Mine Workers of America and the major coal operators have become increasingly similar.

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