"Protection for miners"
Washington, D.C., April 3, 1947
John L. Lewis
Certainly the responsibility for safety in the coal mines covers a long trail. From the miner up through the minor mine officials, to the management of the company, the state legislatures, the inspection boss, the reviewing bodies in the state, the Federal Bureau of Mines and the Administrator of coal mines, who stands at the top, in this period of governmental seizure, with nothing to stop him from making coal mines safe except his lack of desire to do so.
I said that these men at Centralia died through the criminal negligence of J. A. Krug, and I reiterate that statement now. And I shall prove it beyond peradventure at this hearing if the Committee will permit. I have not said that J. A. Krug, by an affirmative act, killed these men. I say that J.A. Krug, by his inaction, had permitted them to die. While he withheld from them succor that was within his power to give.
I raise my voice in justice to the living and injustice to the memory of the dead, to ask for surcease to this blood letting.
And God knows, sirs, you have your responsibility as that of public servants and an honorable Congressmen.
This isn't a question for revenge. The United Mine Workers is a law abiding institution. It's not a revolutionary organization. It's against those who promote disobedience to law and hope to achieve their objective by violence in this country. The United Mine Workers in this country have been fighting the Communist movement since its inception. It isn't a new thing with us. We're Americans. But let me say to you, sir, that this butchery of coal miners in the Krug slaughter-houses in the country does more to make Communistic adherence than anything else in this country. And these constant threats from Congress and from the financial press of this country, controlled by the larger interests, about putting labor in irons and then stringing them from a halter on Talvern Hill, that helps to make Communists, too.
Is it any wonder that there is lamentation in the mining towns of this country? Is it any wonder that there is a spirit of rebellion against this condition manifested now by the memorial services and the prayers to high heaven that's going up from every mining community? Is it any wonder that women in the mining camps now are reluctant to see their men go to the mines next week when the memorial period is over?
Consider the families:
Who knows whose mine it will be tomorrow, or tonight? These are the imponderables. If we must grind up human flesh and bone in the industrial machine that we call modern America, then before God, I assert that those who consume the coal, and you and I who benefit from that service because we live in comfort, we owe protection to those men first, and we owe the security for their family if they die. I say it, I voice it, I proclaim it, and I care not who in heaven or hell opposes it!
That's what I believe about that.