Clarksburg Daily Telegram
LAWYER EXPLAINS NEW UNION PLAN FOR
OPERATING COAL MINES IN LOCAL REGION
Members Are Protected by Law from Intimidation Attorney Says.
June 9, 1925
LAWYER EXPLAINS NEW UNION PLAN FOR OPERATING COAL MINES IN LOCAL REGION
Members Are Protected by Law from Intimidation Attorney Says.
Completely explaining the new company contract plan for operating coal mines in northern West Virginia, John B. Wyatt, of Shinnston and Clarksburg, attorney for the new miners' association, Tuesday made a statement to the Daily Telegram.
Mr. Wyatt explains that the principles involves collective barga[i]ning and that it includes deductions from the miner's wages to defray the expenses of a check weighman and other of the better features of the old union.
The new association was formed, Mr. Wyatt declares, when officials of the United Mine Workers of America were unable to enforce the Baltimore agreement in this field and to stem the non- union tonnage that now averages 1,100 cars a day.
That the company contract plan is finding favor in the local field, Mr. Wyatt says, is indicated by the fact that the Consolidation and the Hutchinson companies are already operating under it and that employes of numerous other mines are asking him to effect the plan for them. The plan was first put into force at the Scott No. 2 mine of the Bethlehem Coal Company.
Miners working under the new contract plan are offered legal protection from the picketers, intimidaters and other lawbreakers by Mr. Wyatt, who promises that he will use the injunction method to protect the members of the association from annoyances.
Mr. Wyatt's statement in its entirety is subjoined.
"For some time I have been contemplating making a public statement as to the purpose of the miners, whom I represent and who have resolved themselves into an organization and thereby negotiated an agreement, regulating the working conditions and a scale of wages, at certain mines of the Consolidation Coal Company and the Bethlehem Coal Company. The causes leading to the action of these men may here be quite appropriately discussed before stating the nature of this working agreement and its practical operation.
"The Baltimore Wage Agreement was negotiated in March, 1924, at Baltimore, largely, if not entirely, on the part of the miners by the International representatives of the United Mine Workers of America. At this joint conference, these union representatives assured, both expressly and by implication, the operators and the union miners in Northern West Virginia that the union would protect the Baltimore Wage agreement by the complete organization of this field, and thereby eliminate the competition of the non-union operators. At the time the Baltimore Wage Agreement was negotiated, this region was 20 percent non-union. It was apparent at the Baltimore joint conference that the non-union mines, if they still continued to increase in number and their production the union operators and the union miners could not carry on under the Baltimore Wage Agreement. The promise of the union representatives at the Baltimore conference has not been kept. They have made only a futile effort to protect the Baltimore Wage Agreement, and this effort was not begun in earnest until the 1st day of April, 1925. Their conduct in this respect has been reprehensible. The union operators and the union miners had a right to rely upon this promise made and they did rely upon it to their great disappointment. Just how well those union representatives carried out their promise made at the Baltimore conference is now shown by an average daily production of 1,100 railroad cars per day of non-union coal, while the union production is practically nil.
"Because the union failed to keep faith with the union operators and the union miners, many operations closed down and others went non-union. The net result is now that there is no such thing as the Baltimore Wage Agreement in this field. It has been destroyed by the unfaithfulness of the union officials themselves failing to carry out their promise and defaulting in protecting it.
"Someone has accused the miners of abrogating the Baltimore Wage Agreement. This is untrue. The Baltimore Wage Agreement died of its own inherent vices and the failure of the union officials to protest [sic] it. The miners have pleaded with these union officials to negotiate a new wage agreement, and, thereby re-open these mines, but their petitions have fallen upon deaf ears. These miners now have simply taken their own affairs into their own hands and have resolved themselves into a new organization and are beginning a new industrial endeavor to open up the coal mines in this region. President Lewis of the United Mine Workers has declared that 30 percent of the mines must close down and that 30 percent of the miners must go into other business. It is the determination of the miners I represent that they will not go out out [sic] of the occupation in which they have spent their lives and that the mines near their homes, where they were born and reared, shall not be closed. It is their purpose to keep the mines in operation in northern West Virginia and thereby thwart the purposes of these international union representatives from Indiana, Illinois and Ohio who apparently have been trying to close the mines in this region for the past several months, to the benefit of what is known as the Central Competitive Field, comprising the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and parts of Pennsylvania. There has been a conspicuous effort time and again on the part of the operators and the union miners in these outlying fields to close the mines or interfere with out production in northern West Virginia by increased freight rates on our coal and by manipulation of the union organization here. This new organization and new agreement with the miners will be an assurance that our coal produced in northern West Virginia can reach the markets on the lakes, also in New York and Baltimore and elsewhere in competition with the coal from these outlying competitive fields. The Fairmont region will again by placed on the map as a great coal producing territory. A large amount of the credit for this commendable endeavor must be given to these miners who have negotiated this new industrial movement.
"The agreement negotiated by the miners at the different operations of the Consolidation Coal company and the Bethlehem Coal company is essentially based upon the idea of collective bargaining, and it is the purpose of the agreement further to provide for the adjustment of disputes or grievances of the miners and for communication and conference between the operators and the employes according to a uniform procedure. The spirit of the agreement is for better understanding of the respective problems and duties of the operators and the employes as well as their responsibility to each other and to the general public.
"The agreement provides for an organization of the employes at each mine operation, to consist of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and mine committee of three. These officers are to be chosen from the oldest employes in point of service. The mine committee shall be composed of employes who are citizens, or have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, and are above the age of 21 years and speak the English language and have been employed at the mine they are to represent for a least twelve months immediately preceding their election.
The general officers under this agreement negotiated and this new organization shall consist of an employes' commissioner to represent the employes and on operators' commissioner to represent the operators and a joint board review and umpire. The employes' commissioner shall be selected and paid by the miners and shall devote his entire time to their interests. The operators' commissioner shall be selected and compensated by the operators and shall devote his entire time to the interests of thhe [sic] operators. The representatives of the employes on the joint board of review shall consist of nine members chosen from the ranks of the various presidents and their commissioner. The representatives of the operators on said joint board shall consist of nine officials and their commissioner[.] Should any question arise that the joint board of review cannot or will not settle, it may be referred to the umpire. The umpire shall be selected by the two commissioners. The scale of wages and all questions in connection therewith shall not be appealable from the joint board of review, therefore there can be no compulsory arbitration of wages under this agreement.
"The agreement provides for certain deductions from the wages of the employes for the wages and expenses of the check-weighmen, burial fund, compensation to be paid the employes' commissioner and maintenance of the local organization at each operation, but in no case shall the deductions amount to more than $2.00 per month off each employe.
"The miners at the Columbia mine near Clarksburg, being the first organization under this agreement, have found the agreement quite feasible and consider this agreement, regulating working conditions and a scale of wages, entirely satisfactory. Any representative from any other mine in the region desiring to acquaint himself with this agreement and its feasibility should go to the officials of the local organization of the Columbia mine and make inquiry as to its practical operation.
"The miners at Owings and Pinnickinnick mines of the Consolidation Coal company and Scott mine No. 2 of the Bethlehem Coal Company have taken action similar to that of the Columbia miners.
"The miners signing this agreement can under its terms quit work at the mine at any time they see fit. There is nothing compulsory on or restraining the miners in this agreement. On the contrary, they are amply protected by it in every particular.
"The agreement provides for a voluntary association of the employes at each mine. The United Mine Workers of American is likewise a voluntary association. The miners under this new organization are under no greater liability or responsibility than the miners who are members of the United Mine Workers of America. The legal fact in this new organization is that the miners and their representatives are citizens and residents of West Virginia and will not be governed like the United Mine Workers of America by international representatives and their lieutenants hailing from the states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and parts of the state of [Pennsylvania. The fees to be] paid the officers of this new organization are comparatively small as compared to the salaries, fees and expenses to be paid the international representatives and officers of the United Mine Workers of America, and it will be the purpose of the miners and their officers of this new organization to protect and promote the interests of the miners of West Virginia and the coal industry in this state as against outside influences.
"This agreement and new organization are a guaranty that the miner and his family will eat. It means work for the miners and the reopening of the mines for the operators. The prosperity of both will be reflected in the community. This new industrial endeavor should meet the commendation and approval of the public generally. The business interest of every character in the counties of Harrison and Marion and in the cities of Clarksburg and Fairmont and elsewhere will feel the benefits of the re-opening of these mines. The public therefore, should encourage and lend its support to this commendable effort on the part of the miners.
"These miners in this organization have a right to work when and where they please, if they so elect; such is the right guaranteed them by the constitution of West Virginia and the constitution of the United States. It does not lie in the mouth of anyone to criticize these men who desire to go to work, or to interfere with them in this inalienable right. It has come to my ear that there will be efforts made to intimidate and scare these men from their intended work, which they have undertaken under this new agreement, by picketing in mass and otherwise at the mines. If the recent violences in the valley are to be any criterion, it may be that the torch of the incendiary and the dynamite of the bomber may stalk through [the] community for the purpose [of] deterring these men from the desire to work. I have the promise from the officials in West Virgin[i]a, and likewise the promise from the executive officials of some of the counties that these men undertaking this new industrial endeavor under this new agreement and this new organization will be protected in their rights. I intend to hold these officials to their promises and it is quite my determination to see that these men are protected in their work and in their rights.
"If they are interfered with by the marchers and the picketers and those making threats to intimidate and scare them and by acts of violence from the purpose of keeping them from work, I shall go into the courts by petitions on behalf of these miners, whom I represent, and secure injunctions and prohibit and restrain these marchers and picketers from interfering with the men who desire to work at the mines under this new organization. It may be a new procedure for the miners to file injunctions in courts for their protection, but it happens that the law permits them to ask for injunctions for their own protection just as well as for the operators to pray for injunctions for the protection of their employes and their property."