Failed to End Strike

October 11, 1902


The coal conference with operators and President Roosevelt is unsuccessful as the miners will not agree to return to work.


Coal Conference with President Unsuccessful.
Struggle Will Continue
Recognition of Union Proved the Stumbling Block.
Federal Troops Demanded
The President urged the contending parties to end the conflict and the labor leaders suggested arbitration, but the mine owners refused to accept, saying that if the men returned to work grievances would be submitted to judges of Pennsylvania Courts.

Washington, Oct. 4.-- The great coal conference between the president and representatives of the operators and the miners came to an end at the temporary White House, facing Lafayette Square, at 4.55 o'clock yesterday afternoon, with a failure to reach an agreement. Apparently the rock upon which the conference split was recognition of the Miners' Union. The president had urged the contending party to end the strife in the interests of the public welfare; the miners through the president of their union had expressed a willingness to submit differences to arbitration for a period of from one to five years, and the employers through the presidents of the railway and coal companies and a leading independent mine operator had squarely refused arbitration, had denounced the miners' labor organization as a lawless and anarchistic body with which they could and would have no dealings, had demanded federal troops to ensure complete protection to workers and their families in the mining region and court proceedings against the miners' union, and had offered if the men returned to work to submit grievances at individual collieries to the decision of the judges of the court of common pleas for the district of Pennsylvania in which the colliery was located. There the matter closed.

The President's Appeal.
At the morning session President Roosevelt addressing the conference said:
"I wish to call your attention to the fact that there are three parties affected by the situation in the anthracite trade: The operators, the miners, and the general public. I speak for neither the operators nor the miners, but for the general public. The questions at issue which led to the situation affect immediately the parties concerned-- the operators and the miners; but the situation itself vitally affects the public. I disclaim any right or duty to interfere in this way upon legal ground or upon any official relation that I bear to the situation; but the urgency and the terrible nature of the catastrophe impending over a large portion of our people in the shape of a winter fuel famine impel me after much anxious thought to believe that my duty requires me to use whatever influence I personally can to bring an end a situation which has become literally intolerable.
"In my judgment the situation imperatively requires that you meet upon the common plane of the necessities of the public. With all the earnestness there is in me, I ask that there be an immediate resumption of operations in the coal mines in some such way as will without a day's unnecessary delay meet the crying needs of the people.
"I do not invite a discussion of your respective claims and positions. I appeal to your patriotism, to the spirit that stinks personal considerations and makes individual sacrifices for the general good."
Mitchell Suggests Arbitration.
Upon the completion of the president's remarks Mr. Mitchell made a statement, as follows:
"Mr. President, I am much impressed with what you say. I am much impressed with the gravity of the situation. We feel that we are not responsible for this terrible state of affairs. We are willing to meet the gentlemen representing the coal operators to try to adjust our differences among ourselves. If we can not adjust them that way, Mr. President, we are willing that you shall name a tribunal who shall determine the issues that have resulted in the strike, and if the gentlemen representing the operators will accept the award or decision of such a tribunal the miners will willingly accept it, even if it is against their claims."
President Roosevelt then asked the operators to consider the proposition and meet again at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Upon reassembling, Mr. Baer spoke as follows:
"Mr. President, do we understand you correctly that we will be expected to answer the proposition submitted Mr. Mitchell?"
The President: "It will be a pleasure to me to hear any answer that you are willing to make."
Mr. Baer: "I have prepared an answer."
Mr. Baer's Statement.
The following is the text of Mr. Baer's statement:
"To the President of the United States:
"We understand your anxiety is forcibly expressed in the statement you read to us this morning to bring about in immediate resumption of operations in the coal mines in some such way a will without a day's unnecessary delay meet the crying needs of the people." We infer that you desired us to consider the offer of Mr. Mitchell, expressing and speaking for the United Mine Workers, to go back to work, if you would appoint a commission to determine the questions at issue.
"We represent the owners of coal mines in Pennsylvania. There are from 15,000 to 20,000 men at work mining and preparing coal. They are abused, assaulted, injured and maltreated by the United Mine Workers. They can only work under the protection of armed guards. Thousands of other workmen are deterred from working by the intimidation, violence and crimes inaugurated by the United Mine Workers, over whom John Mitchell, whom you invited to meet you, is chief.
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Upper Left Quadrant

Contributed By

Brooke Royer


“Failed to End Strike,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed December 9, 2023,