John L. Lewis was one of the most powerful political leaders of the twentieth century. His life illuminates the rise of the American labor movement ..
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As head of the United Mine Workers from 1919 to 1960. He was the "Miner's Hero." His influence in the union made life better for all coal miners. John L. Lewis led a life that was devoted to the United Mine Workers. He was viewed as a giant among American leaders in the first half of the twentieth century, regularly advising presidents and challenging America's corporate leaders. He became one of the most prestigious presidents the United Mine Workers ever had.
Perhaps Lewis' greatest legacy was the creation of the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund in a contract with the federal government, signed in the White House with President Truman in attendance. The UMWA Fund would change permanently health care delivery in the coal fields of the nation. The UMWA Fund built eight hospitals in Appalachia and established numerous clinics. In 1964, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian decoration, by President Lyndon Johnson. He remained Chairman of the UMWA Fund until his death in 1969.
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The United Mine Workers of America (UMW or UMWA) is a North American labor union best known for representing coal miners and coal technicians. Today, the Union also represents health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers and public employees in the United States and Canada. Although its main focus has always been on workers and their rights, the UMW of today also advocates for better roads, schools, and universal health care.
The UMW was founded in Columbus, Ohio, on January 22, 1890, with the merger of two old labor groups, the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union . Adopting the model of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the union was initially established as a three-pronged labor tool: to develop mine safety; to improve mine workers' independence from the mine owners and the company store; and to provide miners with collective bargaining power. After passage of the National Recovery Act in 1933, organizers spread out throughout the United States to organize all coal miners into labor unions. During the 1930s, the UMWA was involved in Washington politics, a controversial involvement which generated such alternative unions such as the Progressive Mine Workers.
United Mine Workers
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Throughout its history, the UMWA has provided leadership to the American labor movement. Among the great UMWA leaders were John L. Lewis, Phil Murray, Bill Green, William B. Wilson, John Mitchell and Mother Jones.