Unrest in the southern West Virginia coalfields in early 1922 prompted Congress to launch an investigation of miners’ living and working conditions. As the hearings began, a contract dispute between miners and coal operators had escalated into a nationwide United Mine Workers strike. Only 10% of the nation’s mines continued to operate. By the time J.P. Luterancik, an interpreter and union representative, testified before the House Committee on Labor in April 1922, the strike had been going for three weeks. By mid-summer, as the strike dragged on with sporadic violence, U.S. coal stockpiles would be nearly exhausted due to the mine closures. Mine workers and coal operators finally came to a contract agreement to end the strike in August.
How does J. P. Luterancik portray the challenges of organizing mine workers into a union in the early 1920s? What role did the state police play? The courts?
How does Luterancik link the freedom of speech and assembly to the workers’ right to organize? How did the miners’ precarious citizenship status factor into their ability to continue their strike?
Compare Luterancik’s testimony to John Vanusek’s letter to the United Mine Workers Journal from 1934 (“Two Letters to the United Mine Workers Journal”), which both concern Fayette County, Pennsylvania. How does Luterancik’s testimony help us understand Vanusek’s enthusiastic response to the New Deal?
Investigation of Wages and Working Conditions in the Coal-Mining Industry: Hearing on H. R. 11022, Day 2, Before House of Representatives, 67th Cong., 2nd sess., 502-506 (1922) (Statement of Mr. J. P. Luterancik, Pittsburgh, PA).
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