McKinley was a winner because he had managed to cut short a potentially
explosive situation that could have knocked him right out of the Presidency.
And McKinley was a lot like John Mitchell. McKinley believed in arbitration.
McKinley believed in settling issues before they reached strike proportions.
In fact, Mark Hannah, McKinley's right-hand man, and John Mitchell belonged to
the same organization, the National Civic Federation which was founded in 1900
by labor leaders like Mitchell and Gompers and industrial leaders like Hannah
and Morgan, to settle labor disputes before they reached the explosive stage.
So they were moderates on both sides. They were men who could sit down and
agree with one another because they both believed in order and they both knew
that their organizations, political on McKinley's side, economic on some of the
owners' sides and some of the capitalist's side, and union, on the other side,
all agreed that order was the key. They had to have peace, they had to have
order in order to grow. And they had to talk with one another, they had to
agree with one another. It was a recognition on the part of McKinley that
unions were a fact of life even though he would not give that last two or three
inches on that issue. |
Mitchell was effective in organizing the workers because he constantly had a
refrain. The refrain was "The coal you're mining is not Slavic coal. It's not
Irish coal. It's not Polish coal. It's not Italian coal. It's coal. You're
all working under the same working conditions and when you don't have to drink,
if you're Irish, with Italians, but you work with them and to get anything done
in the way of improvements in the work force at the job, at the job site,
you've got to bury your antagonism temporarily and join with these people in a
common effort. Otherwise, you know, you're just fodder, cannon fodder for
After the strike, miners have a new sense of their own power. That's what they
have. And they will not, in a sense, give in easily to the company. They're a
united force. When Mitchell leaves the region, he leaves a work force of over
a hundred thousand men organized in a national union. The unity was the most
important thing that came out of the strike. The unity was emerging before the
strike because of the nature of the work. When the colliery whistle blows and
that's the sign of an industrial accident, and they pull two guys, in a iron
cage out, of the mine, one guy's name is O'Connor and the other guy's name is
Stufco -- one's Irish and one's Slovak -- it doesn't matter to the people
around there. That doesn't matter to the widows. They're all miners now. So
the very nature of the work, the closeness of the work and the dangers involved
in the work tended to bring the miners together. And then the union redoubles
that unification effort. And nothing breaks down paternalism like an organized
The owners saw the strike in very different terms than Mitchell saw the strike.
It was a great victory for Mitchell, but he knew it wasn't a final victory. He
was there to get union recognition and he had to stay until he achieved union
recognition. The owners saw the strike in very different ways. They saw what
they had done as a tactical retreat and they immediately begin preparing for
the larger and final struggle. This was just a skirmish, the battle was ahead.
So they begin immediately after this strike to stockpile coal, to bring in more
coal and iron police, to bring in Pinkerton guards, to bring in more Winchester
rifles. They know the big struggle's just around the corner. The 1900 strike
sets the stage for everything that occurs later.
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