John L. Lewis was born in the town of Lucas, Iowa on February 12th, 1880. His parents are immigrants from Wales. When John was fifteen, he started working as a miner in Illinois. Between 1898 and 1907, John was voted to be a local representative to the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in the year 1906. Lewis also tried farming, construction work, and owning a small business, before joining the labor movement in 1907. The United Mine Workers of America , aka the UMWA, later elected John as branch secretary. In 1909, he served as president of the Panama local of the United Mine Workers of America. In 1910, he would be elected as an Illinois representative on UMW's state legislature. He took a national position in the American Federation of Labor (AFL), as an organizer, in 1911. Lewis departed from the mines in the year 1911, to become an organizer for the American Federation of Labor. In 1916, Lewis was the UMWA president and appointed chief arithmetician for the union. In the year 1919, three years after his election, he became the president of the largest trade union in America in 1920. He held this position until 1960, when he retired.
In 1921 Lewis was denied the presidency of the American Federation of Labor when Samuel Gompers was elected over him. During the following year, he would disagree with labor activist, Jones, over whether or not to set a date for the Kansas coal workers to strike against the “Industrial Slave Law”, which was intended to stop coal labors from striking. The UMWA fell from 500,000 to less than 100,000 in the 1930s, due to growing numbers of unemployment. In 1935, the Congress for Industrial Organization was form when Lewis and several other unions joined together. Lewis then became president...
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...000 plus members. In 1952, Lewis helped create the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act. This act required annual safety inspections of the mines and any mines employing more than 14 workers. If the inspections were to fail, the act would allow for immediate closing due to imminent danger of fire, gas, or possible explosions. The act also made mines follow safety regulations, gave penalties for mines that violate these safety regulations. It also provided compensation to miners suffering from diseases cause down in the mines. In 1964, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson, for his work with the UMW Welfare and Retirement Fund. This would forever change the distribution of health care in the United States coal fields. Lewis later died on June 11, 1969 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia. He remained the chairman of the UMW until his death.
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