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Mine Strikers Win $100 Pension Demand

Await Outcome of Trial Before Return to Work

(8 April 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 16, 19 April 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

APRIL 8 – The country’s 400,000 soft coal miners have scored another victory for themselves and all labor by winning their strike demand for a $100 monthly old-age retirement pension payable from the operator-financed health and welfare fund. But more than two-thirds of the strikers were still “sitting it out” this morning in defiance of a federal strikebreaking injunction. They intend to “wait and see” if John L. Lewis and the union are again subjected to harsh reprisals in the government’s trial for “contempt” which opened yesterday.

The Truman Administration is vindictively pressing for conviction of Lewis and the union, with possible extortionate fines and imprisonment. Again the administration has secured the services of Federal Judge T. Allan Goldsborough, who acted as judge, prosecutor and jury 17 months ago in fining the UMW $3,510,000 for a similar charge of “contempt” of an anti-strike injunction.

Judge Goldsborough has revealed himself as no less biased and prejudiced now than in November 1946, when he raved that the mine strike was “an evil, demoniac, monstrous thing.”

Yesterday, he overruled almost every one of the UMW attorney’s objections to irrelevant proceedings and testimony.

How far Judge Goldsborough will dare to go in “throwing the book” at the Miners’ Union is still undecided. The one thing that may restrain him is fear that the miners will stay out of the pits to a man, particularly if Lewis personally is given a harsh sentence.

“Pensions Granted”

Lewis on Monday, prior to the opening of Goldsborough’s hearings, wired the UMW locals: “pensions granted, agreement is now honored” and advised that “your voluntary cessation of work should now be terminated.”

The break in the deadlock over the pension issue came when Speaker of the House Joseph W. Martin Jr., a Republican, intervened to effect a quick settlement outside the machinery of the Taft-Hartley Act, which the Republicans put over last June with the miners as their immediate target.

It is reported that big steel and coal interests, linked with the Republican party, sought Martin’s intervention when it became clear that the miners would not knuckle under to government intimidation. By agreement with Lewis, Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire was named to fill the third-man vacancy on the welfare fund’s Board of Trustees, which includes Lewis for the miners and Ezra Van Horn for the operators.

Within 48 hours, Lewis and Bridges agreed to a pension for all miners 62 years or over who have worked 20 years in the mines and retired after May 28, 1946, including members in Southern mines, whose owners have not signed the contract.

The operators threaten to challenge the decision as violating the Taft-Hartley Law. They are insisting among other things that $100 a month is too much for old men who have toiled away a third or more of their lives in the bowels of the earth. Lewis branded this greedy attitude of the operators when he pointed out that Benjamin Fairless, head of U.S. Steel which is the largest mine operator, “when he retires ... will receive an annual pension of $26,687 a year.”

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