Western Federation of Miners

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Western Federation of Miners

(WFM), a radical labor union that organized the miners and smelter workers of the Rocky Mountain states. Created in 1893 by the merger of several local miners' unions, the WFM had a reputation for violent strikes and militant action from its beginning. On several occasions pitched battles occurred between union members and company guards, and state militia and federal troops were sometimes dispatched to keep order in strike areas, such as Leadville, Colo., and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. When Frank Steunenberg, a former governor of Idaho, was murdered in 1905, attempts were made to fix the responsibility on the WFM. Charles Moyer, president of the union, William D. HaywoodHaywood, William Dudley,
1869–1928, American labor leader, known as Big Bill Haywood, b. Salt Lake City, Utah. He began work as a miner at 15 years of age. In 1896 he joined the newly organized Western Federation of Miners, and in 1900 became a member of the executive
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, secretary, and George Pettibone, a former member, were arrested and stood trial for Steunenberg's murder; defended by Clarence S. Darrow, they were acquitted. The WFM had joined the American Federation of Labor in 1896, but the conservative policies of that organization caused the WFM to withdraw the following year, and, in 1898, to attempt to organize a rival federation, the Western Labor Union. In 1901 the WFM adopted a socialist program, and after the failure of the Western Labor Union it joined in the formation of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905. Factionalism within the IWW led to the defection of the WFM, which then rejoined (1911) the American Federation of Labor. The failure of several strikes and the depression of 1914 injured the union, and it suffered from antiradical feeling. Declining in membership and power, the union changed its name in 1916 to International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers.


See V. H. Jensen, Heritage of Conflict (1950, repr. 1968); S. H. Holbrook, The Rocky Mountain Revolution (1956).

References in periodicals archive ?
The International Workingmen's Association, Knights of Labor, Socialist Party of America, Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), and Western Federation of Miners all developed strong followings in the Keweenaw, particularly among immigrant mineworkers.
As Hinde's own account suggests, two American "internationals," the United Mine Workers of America and the Western Federation of Miners, played a considerable role on Vancouver Island in the decade leading up to the Great Strike.
He finds that many Western Federation of Miners and IWW activists worked to end the bifurcated labour force in the early 20th century.
Notably, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), with their ability to stabilize a chaotic industry, proved more durable than the fiercely syndicalistic Western Federation of Miners.
This nine-month battle between employees represented by the Western Federation of Miners and the three major mining companies took a tragic turn on Christmas Eve 1913, at a party for strikers and their families organized by the union.
In parallel with that account, the authors trace the onset of labor organization from the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) and the Western Federation of Miners to the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers and the 1967 merger with the United Steelworkers.
It has long been known that the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was a highly democractic union, with a very active rank and file.
In this study, Michael Neuschatz traces the rise and decline of the Western Federation of Miners in the turn-of-the-century precious-metal camps of Colorado, a topic that he believes has largely been forgotten.

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