A miner reacts to a court ruling on United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis

A miner reacts to a court ruling on United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis

Caldwell and Graham spent half a dozen years reporting on the undercover deal between United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis and billionaire financier Cyrus Eaton, who had major interests in the coal industry.

Almost unnoticed by the rest of the country, the story of an amazing conspiracy in the coal industry has been unfolded in a federal court in Tennessee. The trial record and the verdict have incalculable implications—for business, for union members, for every taxpayer, and perhaps even for the future of American law and politics. It is too early to say whether the consequences will be good, evil, or a mixture of both. But testimony at the trial discloses, among other things, that:

  1. The United Mine Workers—whose chieftain, John L. Lewis, is an almost mythical
    hero of American labor—quietly became a big stockholder in some of the nation’s largest coal mines.
  2. A union-controlled company broke a strike of the UMW’s own members. They worked in small “inefficient” mines which compete with those mechanized through the use of UMW money.
  3. The union was found guilty of conspiring with large coal companies to monopolize the soft-coal industry and drive small firms into bankruptcy.

For more than five years the men most deeply affected refused to believe what was happening. The story has now been confirmed under oath. And on May 19, 1961, a federal jury in Knoxville found the United Mine Workers guilty of violating the antitrust laws—although hitherto all unions had been exempt from such prosecutions. In effect, the case held that the exemption does not apply when a union becomes part of ownership or conspires with its ancient enemies in restraint of trade.

Reprinted with permission from The Tennessean.

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