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4 l l l Becoming Mining Men Polish Integration within the Workforce in the aftermath of workplace struggles during the 1890s, Polish workers recognized the power of collective action and the inadequacy of existing ethnic institutions for promoting social equality. From the turn of the century onward, Poles began joining unions in large numbers, a development that significantly aided integration by making them political actors within the bounds of civil society. The important role of unions in aiding integration was commented on by Emily Balch in her 1910 treatise Our Slavic Fellow Citizens, where she noted that the adaptation of Poles in Pennsylvania to “union life” highlighted the maturing of “a political sense (in the best meaning of the word political) with which the Slav has not been commonly credited ” and taught Poles “a nobler, more intelligible and more practical lesson in democratic self-government than most ward politics.”1 Though Balch’s language conveys some of the prejudices of her time, her analysis highlights how unions acted as instruments of socialization through which Poles could articulate their interests and become familiar with the democratic practices of their host societies. This chapter explores the long-term effects trade unionism and mobilization in labor disputes had on levels of Polish integration and acceptance within German and American working-class milieus. In both the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania, Poles were eager to join unions; however, their patterns of organization differed. The majority of Poles in the Ruhr, instead of joining existing German unions, mobilized to form the independent Zjednoczenie Zawodowe Polskie (ZZP) trade union in 1902. By contrast, Poles in northeastern Pennsylvania embraced the dominant coal miners’ union in the United States, the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). The immediate cause for this disparity was the different outcomes of the 1897 Lattimer and the 1899 Herne strikes. Other Polish Integration within the Workforce l 71 factors were also important. In the Ruhr, the formation of the ZZP provided a legal means to create a strong, culturally autonomous organization through which Poles could maintain their community in a period when the Prussian bureaucracy was intent on restricting Polish activities. The existing factionalism of the union movement and the penchant for the Alter Verband and the Gewerkverein to spend more time fighting each other than employers also put off Poles. As Bartholomaeus Wilkowski, a Polish miner who lived in Gelsenkirchen-Rotthausen, noted during an organizational meeting of the ZZP in 1902, “Poles . . . also have the duty to organize. Each man should join the [ZZP] union organization and not let himself be led astray. . . . The Polish working-class must not belong to . . . unions, which . . . wage a mutual war against each other.”2 In northeastern Pennsylvania, union development during the 1890s was practically nonexistent. Joining the UMW offered a tremendous opportunity for Poles to wield influence within a still-nascent organization and enhance their status within local society . This was especially true under the post-Lattimer leadership of John Mitchell, who publicly welcomed Poles into the union.3 Regardless of the ways Poles unionized, membership in unions brought strength and allowed Poles to begin to forge bonds with other workers across ethnic lines. Moreover , with the help of their unions, Polish workers were at the forefront in challenging their employers for better wages, hours, and working conditions . This can especially be seen in Polish actions and attitudes during major strikes in each region between 1900 and 1905. Poles, the UMW, and the Strikes of 1900 and 1902 In northeastern Pennsylvania, Poles began joining the UMW beginning in 1898. Under John Mitchell, the UMW adopted a new course and actively began recruiting Poles and other “new” immigrants, an exceptional development given that most other unions at the time refused to organize them. The UMW’s decision was necessary and pragmatic. By the turn of the century, the majority of mine workers in northeastern Pennsylvania hailed from eastern and southern Europe, and if the UMW wanted to be effective , those immigrants needed to be organized.4 The impact of Poles on the growth of the UMW in northeastern Pennsylvania was impressive. In early 1897 the UMW had approximately 200 members organized in the entire anthracite region. By the great 1902 strike, it boasted a membership of 78,437 divided into three separate districts: District 1 (Wyoming field), 72 l Becoming Mining Men District 7 (Lehigh field), and District 9 (Schuylkill field).5 Although membership figures were not broken down by nationality, the sizable and growing Polish presence...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780821443514
Print ISBN
9780821419267
MARC Record
OCLC
728663358
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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