From Ohio History Central
In 1883, several coal and iron companies merged together to create the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company. These companies all owned land and had mining operations in the Hocking Valley. Rather than compete with each other for coal and iron ore, these companies united together to benefit mutually from the region s mineral resources. A single company would also allow this organization to dictate workers wages, as the miners had no other mining operations, at least locally, at which to seek employment.
Very quickly, the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company experienced difficulties. In the spring of 1884, the management of the company decided to reduce workers wages by twenty cents. It was accepted policy during the spring and summer months for workers to receive a ten-cent decrease for every ton of coal that they mined. The principal reason for this was the lower demand for coal during this time of the year. The twenty-cent wage cut lowered workers pay from eighty cents to just sixty cents per ton of mined coal. The workers rejected the twenty-cent pay cut. The Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company managers implemented the wage reduction against the workers wishes, precipitating the Great Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885.
The strike lasted nine months. The Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company immediately hired scab laborers to replace the striking workers. The company also hired armed guards to protect its property. Violence quickly erupted. Strikers set seven mines on fire and destroyed three railroad bridges. The strike finally ended during the spring of 1885, when the workers agreed to the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company s terms.
The Great Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885 was typical of many strikes during the late nineteenth century. Workers commonly went on strike to demand fairer wages and better working conditions. Unfortunately for the workers, a large number of people were willing to work as scab laborers. As long as employers had a steady supply of workers?especially ones willing to work for less than current employees?strikers had little chance of having their demands fulfilled.
The Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company also suffered as a result of the strike. Workers destroyed several mines and iron furnaces, costing the company untold sums of money. It took nearly twenty years for the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company to emerge as a major player in the coal and iron industry. The company soon left the Hocking Valley and ceased operations, as it had mined most coal and iron ore deposits in the region by 1920.
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