Election 1944: Miners remain firm backers of Roosevelt (10-22-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 22, 1944)


Miners remain firm backers of Roosevelt

Rank-and-file turns deaf ear to Lewis
By William Forrester

With a great majority of Western Pennsylvania miners, it is still “Lewis for president of the UMW, Roosevelt for President of the U.S.”

That’s the summary resulting from queries directed to union officials, rank-and-file miners, mine town store and tavern keepers and others who follow the trend in the bituminous fields.

Lewis backs Dewey

And it holds true despite three major factors in favor of Governor Thomas E. Dewey’s candidacy:

  • Support of Governor Dewey by United Mine Workers Union President John L. Lewis and Vice President John O’Leary, and such local and state officials as John P. Busarello, president of District 5, and Abe Vales, state director of District 50.

  • Constant hammering in the UMW Journal, the semi-monthly publication of the union, against the administration in general and President Roosevelt and Solid Fuels Administrator Harold L. Ickes in particular.

  • Dissatisfaction among the miners over the “kicking around” they believe their wage case received at the hands of federal officials and agencies.

These factors may have swung some former Roosevelt adherents into the Dewey camp.

Sample viewpoint cited

But considering the fact that the recent UMW convention in Cincinnati passed a resolution bitterly assailing the administration, the preponderance of Roosevelt support might be thought surprising.

The general attitude of a majority of mine workers seems to be that the convention action came as a result of the Roosevelt-Lewis feud, and will be paid little heed by the rank and file.

Here’s a sample viewpoint from a Russellton bartender, who hears hundreds of miners talk:

They’re as strong for Roosevelt as ever. I don’t think the Republicans will get any more votes out here than they did before.

Others quoted

And another of a woman store clerk in a small Allegheny River mine town: “There are a few around here for Dewey, but most all for the President.”

Or as a minor UMW official explained:

Sure they’re for Roosevelt. A lot of them aren’t saying much around the union offices, because of what the convention did, but they haven’t changed a lot.

Busarello for Dewey

Of the three district presidents in this immediate area. Mr. Busarello of District 5 here, William Hynes of District 4 at Uniontown, and Frank Hughes of District 3 at Greensburg, only Mr. Busarello has come out for Dewey.

District 5, however, is taking no active part in the campaign, and Mr. Busarello was giving his own opinion, he said.

Both Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hughes said they planned to make no political commitment whatever, but that their offices would carry out national UMW policy.

Journal backs Dewey

As for the UMW Journal, it is conducting a full-scale campaign on behalf of Governor Dewey, The current Oct. 15 issue has no less than 14 articles. editorials or cartoons which are open attacks on President Roosevelt or the administration.

Two stories praise Governor Dewey’s stand on security for servicemen and stabilization of the coal industry. An article, much more bitter than anything which has appeared in daily newspapers, links Sidney Hillman and Earl Browder with the administration.

Ridicule for Ickes

Others attack various phases of the New Deal, with special ridicule for Mr. Ickes.

And every issue of the Journal dwells on the “shabby treatment” accorded miners by government agencies.

Yet the best estimates throughout the district by Republican leaders are that the Republicans will let “some” of the miners’ votes. Not a single person close to the field is willing to predict any large-scale defection from the Roosevelt banner the miners have followed again, and again, and again – and again.