Will the entrance of labor into industry as an employer compel a reexamination of union policies? This is suggested by the controversy between John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America, and Warren S. Stone, head of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, in regard to the Coal River Colleries, a company owned by Mr. Stone and other members of the brotherhood as individuals. In order that our readers might have the facts and principles involved, The Nation invited both Mr. Lewis and Mr. Stone to give their versions. A joint committee is now trying to draw up a program acceptable to both sides.
A Union’s Non-Union Mines
By John L. Lewis
The astounding policy of Coal River Collieries in refusing to employ union miners at union wages is the outstanding scandal of the trade-union and industrial world. Coal River Collieries is a coal-producing company owned exclusively by members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Warren S. Stone, president of the Brotherhood, is chairman of the board of directors of Coal River Collieries, and as such he is responsible for the labor policy of the company. Mr. Stone insists upon acceptance by the miners of a rate of wages that would not only further impoverish those workers but would demoralize the entire coal industry. The United Mine Workers of America will not stand any such thing.
In a joint conference of miners and operators from the central competitive field, composed of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, held in Jacksonville, Florida, in February, 1924, an agreement was reached which extended the then existing wage agreement until April 1, 1927. Immediately, Coal River Collieries, whose mines are in the non-union territory of southern West Virginia and northeastern Kentucky, joined with the non-union coal companies in an assault upon the Jacksonville agreement. Up to that time Coal River Collieries had employed union miners and paid the union scale in the West Virginia mines, but had operated its Kentucky mine non-union. The latter mine is still being operated non-union.
Mr. Stone, like other non-union operators, demanded that his employees take a reduction in wages. The United Mine Workers of America refused. Mr. Stone closed down his West Virginia mines rather than pay the union scale. He threw hundreds of men out of work, knowing that unemployment meant starvation and suffering for their families. Next, Coal River Collieries imported strike-breakers from the non-union fields of Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama to take the places of the union miners. Then the union miners were evicted from their homes. Their families and belongings were thrown out upon the roadside or hillside in the dead of winter, with no place t o go. One hundred and three families were thus evicted last month, when the weather in the West Virginia mountains was bitter cold. The company refuses to permit these union miners to work in its mines unless they accept the reduced scale of wages.
As a result of these evictions the United Mine Workers of America has been compelled to spend scores of thousands of dollars in building houses and barracks for these unfortunate families and in supplying them with food, clothing, fuel, medical attention, and other necessities. This union these men that have died since this thing happened.
The United Mine Workers of America has made not only repeated but continuous efforts to adjust this matter with Mr. Stone and his company, but it has met with the same identical refusals and opposition that it has many times experienced with cold-blooded, hard-boiled non-union coal companies.