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Poor Man's FortuneWhite Working-Class Conservatism in American Metal Mining, 1850-1950$
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Jarod Roll

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469656298

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469656298.001.0001

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(p.200) Chapter 7 Back to Work
Poor Man's Fortune

Jarod Roll

University of North Carolina Press

As the Great Depression crushed the mining industry, Tri-State miners looked for ways to restore their standing as hard-working-white men and their faith in capitalism. The New Deal offered hope but brought labor unions back into the district. Some miners, but not a majority, looked to organized labor as the best way to roll back the power of the companies. This chapter explores their 1935 strike to regain what they had lost and the ways the New Deal labor regime was too weak to protect them. While strikers waited for allies in the nascent Congress of Industrial Organizations, the mining companies organized the majority of the district’s nonunion miners into a back-to-work movement that became a company union. This group rallied around old promises of racial superiority and high pay for loyal, hard-working white men who were willing to destroy the CIO union. The CIO, with the help of New Deal officials, eventually won this dispute in court, but it could not overrule the reactionary commitments in the hearts of the majority of Tri-State miners as a new world war brought the mining economy to life again.

Keywords:   Great Depression, New Deal, Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO, company union, strike, back-to-work, 1935 strike, Racial superiority

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