United Mine Workers And Christian Ethics -- By: Peter Roberts

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:250 (Apr 1906)
Article: United Mine Workers And Christian Ethics
Author: Peter Roberts

United Mine Workers And Christian Ethics

Peter Roberts

The army of employees set apart in the United States to mine and prepare coal for market numbers about half a million. Some 350,000 are members of the United Mine Workers’ Union of America, one-third of whom are employed in anthracite collieries in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the remaining two-thirds are scattered throughout fifteen other coal-producing States in the Union. All well-organized mine employees have a trade agreement, so that about seventy-five per cent of the coal produced in the country is cut under contracts. On March 31, 1906, these contracts expire, and, if operations are to continue, either the old agreements must be renewed or new ones made. The average daily production of our mines is about a million tons. If 350,000 mine workers were to quit work this spring a national calamity would befall us. All centers of industry east of the Rockies would be paralyzed; ten million homes would be discomforted; our factories would be closed; our furnaces be extinguished; our mills grow silent, and our shops empty. Such a contingency is not impossible. The question of a national suspension of mining was raised and voted upon in Indianapolis, July, 1902. Then it was a question of a sympathetic strike, and the bituminous mine workers abode by their contracts. This year the question is of new agreements in both anthracite and bituminous coal-fields, and the difficulties incident to new agreements may precipitate synchronous conflicts.

The public is interested in the discussions now going on in the mining industry between employers and employees, and, as a Christian nation, we are anxious that justice should prevail in industrial controversies. We are willing to hear what economists and accountants have to say upon these discussions, but we also know that ethical motives react upon economic conditions, and the moralist must interpret to the Christian conscience ethical considerations in the action of economic forces. Here are 350,000 men and boys involved in a controversy upon the issues of which the daily bread of a million and a half of our fellow-citizens depends; will discussions of profits and loss, wages and interest, royalty and rent, exhaust the nation’s interest in them? A nation that has its will and heart fashioned by Christianity, whose character is molded by Jesus, will not rest satisfied with a discussion of the controversy from the dollar-and-cent standpoint. It must be raised to a higher plane. Christianity measures man by the justice and the holiness of God, and the industrial questions must be studied in the light of the eternal Word, “who lighteth every man coming into the world.” Man was not made for the coal-mines. The earth and the heavens were...

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