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UMWA marks 119th birthday

January 26, 2009
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JANUARY 26, 2009

CONTACT:        Phil Smith

UMWA marks 119th birthday

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

    “On January 25, 1890, 119 years ago yesterday, hundreds of incredibly brave coal miners from around the country gathered in Columbus, Oh., and voted to establish the United Mine Workers of America. They were of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and spoke different languages, yet all were united by one common purpose: To throw off the yoke of servitude and oppression that defined life for a coal miner–no matter his race or national origin.
    “The battles that followed over the next 119 years echo through our nation’s history books – the Lattimer Massacre and great anthracite strike in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado, the battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia and more. Through it all, the UMWA didn’t just survive, it grew. And every American who is in the workforce today benefits from the fights and struggles of our UMWA forefathers.
    “The eight-hour day, overtime after working 40 hours in a week, the end of child labor, employer-provided health care, pensions, safety and health on the job–all of these things American workers take for granted today were first fought for and won by UMWA members.

    “There are those who believe that things will never go back to the way they used to be; that because of advances in labor laws and 'enlightened' employers, workers no longer have to collectively stand up for themselves and their rights on the job. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    “Harsh and oppressive employers still exist today in abundance, and not just in the coalfields. One only has to open the newspaper or turn on the news to see stories about employers forcing workers to work off the clock, denying overtime pay, engaging in racial and gender discrimination and ignoring safety and health laws and regulations. The fight for justice on the job is far from over.

    “One hundred nineteen years after our founding, we are still here and still standing up for working families. After all the battles, strikes and lockouts, we are still here. After losing 100,000 killed in mine disasters and another 100,000 killed by black lung, we are still here. We’ve been shot, maimed, burned, beaten, thrown out of our houses, blacklisted, buried alive–but we’re still here.

    “And we’re going to remain here, proud to carry on the struggle. We look forward to even greater strides for working families of all colors, all collars, all professions, all nationalities. We shall continue to be in the forefront of the fight, working with a new president who will stand with us. A new day for the American labor movement is dawning, and we intend to bring the light of dignity and respect to every American workplace.”

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