Election 1944: Roosevelt ‘kicks’ UMW, Lewis says (9-12-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 12, 1944)


1943 strike recalled –
Lewis: Roosevelt ‘kicks’ UMW

Cincinnati, Ohio (UP) –
United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis, charging that President Roosevelt once had “publicly kicked every miner in the face,” today called for the President’s defeat in the November elections.

Speaking before delegates at the opening of the UMW’s 10-day biennial convention, Mr. Lewis said that if the miners vote for Mr. Roosevelt in November they will receive “the same kind of treatment” in their contract negotiations as they received in 1943 and 1944.

Mr. Lewis traced last year’s contract negotiations with mine operators and the strike throughout the nation’s coal fields.

‘Kicked in face’

He said Mr. Roosevelt “publicly had kicked every miner in the face by asking us to call off the strike… after… the Policy Committee had called off the stoppage.”

“How did you like that?” he shouted to the 2,700 delegates.

Mr. Lewis added:

Well, vote him into office next November and I think you will have some more of it in April.

The present contract between the miners and operators expires April 1, 1945.

Insurgents attacked

In an attack upon an insurgent group of delegates seeking autonomy for 21 of the 31 UMW districts, Mr. Lewis charged that “Roosevelt, [Earl] Browder and [Sidney] Hillman had hired themselves a man to dethrone the ‘old man.’”

Mr. Lewis said:

Yes, they furnished him with some money to publish some smear literature and get some interviews in the press. Well, while all that’s going on, just what in the hell am I supposed to be doing?

The attack was aimed at Ray Edmundson of Springfield, Illinois, a candidate for international president opposing Mr. Lewis.

Meeting broken up

A meeting held by a group of atonomists led by Mr. Edmundson was broken up yesterday by a number of Lewis supporters.

Mr. Lewis reviewed the accomplishments of the UMW in the last year and said the union was never in “better financial condition” to negotiate a new contract next year, but added that he did not know with whom the union would negotiate. He referred to the action of the government in seizing coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia where supervisors had voted to call a strike.

Mr. Lewis said:

Under the infamous Smith-Connally Harness Slave Act, they have a right to strike after they vote affirmatively on the question.

Some back fourth term

Although Mr. Lewis’ attack on Mr. Roosevelt was anticipated by some leaders at the convention, a number of resolutions endorsing the President for a fourth term were submitted yesterday to the Resolutions Committee.

Mr. Lewis made no reference to whether he would actively support Governor Thomas E. Dewey but he intimated he would back the GOP when he referred to Cincinnati Mayor James Garfield Stewart, Republican gubernatorial nominee, as “Governor Stewart.”

Mr. Lewis expressed the hope that the next time the UMW meets in Columbus, “you [Stewart] will greet us from your executive offices.”

Mr. Lewis said that despite “shabby treatment handed out by the President and his advisers,” 1944 production of anthracite and bituminous coal will be about 700 million tons, 45 million “more than in the war year 1918.”