Great Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885
In 1884, miners working for the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company went on strike when company management lowered wages by one-fourth.
In 1883, several coal and iron companies merged to create the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company. In the spring of 1884, the management of the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company decided to reduce workers' wages by twenty cents per ton of coal mined. It was accepted policy during the spring and summer months for workers to receive a ten-cent decrease due to lower demand for coal during that 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.
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