American Miners' Association

From Ohio History Central

In 1861, a group of miners met at Belleville, Illinois, and established the American Miners' Association. This organization was the first nationwide union for miners in the United States. During this period, mineworkers faced numerous difficulties. During the late 1800s, industries were in great need of coal, iron ore, and other raw materials. Many mine owners saw an opportunity to garner great wealth by paying their miners low wages, while supplying other industries with raw materials. Mineworkers commonly earned less than one dollar per day for a twelve to fourteen hour workday. Workers also routinely received no health insurance, workers' compensation, or vacation time.

To protest the poor conditions, workers formed unions, such as the American Miners' Association. Before this point, numerous miners belonged to local unions, where the workers of a single mine or for a single company might have formed a collective bargaining organization. The American Miners' Association hoped to unite miners across the United States together to bring more pressure on mine owners to improve conditions. In 1864, the American Miners' Association published the following song to publicize its views:

Step by step, the longest march
Can be won, can be won;
Single stones will form an arch
One by one, one by one
And, by Union what we will
Can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none.

Despite its lofty goals, the American Miners' Association had limited success. Within Ohio, only a small number of mineworkers joined the American Miners' Association. As a result of its poor membership, the American Miners' Association ceased operation in 1868. Over the next several decades within Ohio, organizations, such as the Ohio Miners' Amalgamated Association and the United Mine Workers, experienced greater success in uniting miners together.

See Also