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Soft Coal, Hard ChoicesThe Economic Welfare of Bituminous Coal Miners, 1890-1930$
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Price V. Fishback

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195067255

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195067255.001.0001

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What Did Miners Gain from Strikes?

What Did Miners Gain from Strikes?

(p.198) 11 What Did Miners Gain from Strikes?
Soft Coal, Hard Choices

Price V. Fishback

Oxford University Press

Bituminous coal mining was notorious for prolonged labor strikes and for the violence that marred some strikes. This chapter compares the strike activity in bituminous coal mining and other industries and assesses the pecuniary costs and benefits of strikes. Coal miners gave up earnings during the strike to achieve improvements in wages and working conditions. Unless the strike was over union recognition, the loss in earnings while on strike exceeded the gains from obtaining a higher wage rate. In union recognition strikes, the gains from unionization had to last several years before the expected gain from the strike exceeded the lost earnings in the course of the strike. Although most strikes were settled peacefully, the coal industry became infamous for a series of violent episodes, some that developed into full-scale warfare. Rather than trying to fix blame on one side or the other, this chapter argues that both miners and employers armed themselves in self-defense.

Keywords:   coal mining, labor strikes, violence, wages, coal miners, working conditions, unionization, earnings, warfare, self-defense

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