What Did Roosevelt Do When the United Mine Workers Called a Strike?

Unlike his predecessors, President Roosevelt sought to personally mediate contentious strikes.
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The early 20th century was marked by tensions between workers and employers. Fighting for safety standards, grievance procedures and better pay, workers in many trades held strikes to get the attention of their employers and the community. The country's reliance on cleaner-burning anthracite coal increased the attention given to their plight. Believing a long strike in the Pennsylvania coal fields would result in a coal famine, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to intervene like no president had before.

1 President Roosevelt as Mediator

On October 3, 1902, nearly five months after the coal strike started, Roosevelt held a meeting with representatives from the United Mine Workers and mine management. Though the meeting was contentious, it did not deter him from further intervention. With the help of multiple leaders, including his Secretary of War Elihu Root and Commissioner of Labor Carroll Wright, he established a joint commission on conciliation. The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission was able to initiate an agreement and the miners returned to work on October 23, 1902. Roosevelt's direction and pressure not only prevented a coal famine, but it also established a role for government intervention in labor disputes and further validated the role of labor unions.

Based in the Pacific Northwest and educated at the University of Washington, Rosanne Tomyn has been writing historical, cultural and political articles since 2005. Tomyn was awarded the International Labor Communicators Award for Best Profile and Best Labor History Story in 2011.