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United Mine Workers of America, Health and Retirement Funds, Records

 Collection
Collection Number: A&M.2769

Scope and Contents

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) archives consists of the records of the first industry-wide pension and medical care plans for coal miners and their families in the United States. The archives comprise approximately 156 linear feet of records from the years 1946-1974, and include minutes, resolutions, correspondence, memos, reports, transcribed speeches, lawsuit documents, construction plans, contracts, statistical reports, newspaper clippings, photographs, microfilmed reading files, sound recordings, and movie film.

Letters, memos, and reports in the archives document the relationship between the UMWA and the Health and Retirement Funds. There are correspondence files for John L. Lewis, Josephine Roche, W.A. (Tony) Boyle, and other members of the Funds’ Board of Trustees, 1946-1974. There are also newspaper clippings, letters, and lawsuit documents concerning the 1969 UMWA election, the Blankenship vs. Boyle class action lawsuit, and the U.S. Senate investigation of the Funds.

The archives also include extensive records on the creation and implementation of hospitalization and medical care policies. There are letters, memos, reports, minutes, and agenda of professional health care meetings, speeches and addresses concerning the administration of health care delivery in the coal fields, the hiring and retention of physicians and other medical personnel, and the provision of various types of medical care, from routine examinations to vocational rehabilitation for the victims of mining accidents.

The archives include a variety of documents on the building, dedication, and administration of the Miners Memorial Hospitals in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. There are volumes of minutes, resolutions, and exhibits from meetings of the Miners Memorial Hospital Associations of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, from 1951-1964. There are also construction plans, contracts, photographs, sound recordings, and movie film of groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies, as well as extensive documentation on the implementation of medical care programs through the hospitals. Additional letters, memos, reports, contracts, and printed material concern the transfer of the Miners Memorial Hospitals from the Funds to the Appalachian Regional Hospitals, incorporated in 1963.

The archives’ medical care records also include material on the dispute between the Funds’ medical professionals and the American Medical Association (AMA) concerning the issue of free choice of physicians There are letters, transcribed hearings of local medical associations, sound recordings of Kentucky legislative hearings, and printed material revealing the policies of both the Funds and the AMA and the cases of individual physicians employed or retained by the Funds whom the AMA barred from membership.

There is voluminous correspondence among the Funds’ trustees, officers, administrators, and beneficiaries concerning the eligibility requirements for pensions, funeral expense payments, disability payments, widow’s maintenance payments, and hospitalization and health care. These letters, appearing in large groups throughout the archives, reveal the changes in the Funds eligibility and benefit requirements and the attitudes of coal miners and their dependents to the establishment of the pension and medical care programs and the revision of these programs from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

There are two addenda from 1981 and two addenda from 1982 totaling 10 boxes. There is also an addendum from 2019 totaling 4 boxes containing court papers documenting a case between Duquesne Light and the UMWA (ca. 1981-1989), and wage agreements for bituminous coal operations (ca. 1941-1988).

Dates

  • 1935-1989

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Requires signed form, since special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Biographical / Historical

In 1946, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President John L. Lewis demanded a pension and medical care program for American coal miners. The collective bargaining agreement of the same year between the Union and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug established two trust funds, one for welfare and retirement payments and another for medical care benefits. Krug signed the agreement on behalf of the industry because the U.S government had seized the country’s coal mines during the miners’ 1946 strike.

The original names for the pension and medical care plan was the Welfare and Retirement Fund. Coal companies paid money to the Fund according to a royalty per ton of coal mined. The royalty rose gradually from five cents per ton in 1946 to eighty-two cents per ton in 1974. The first welfare and medical checks reached beneficiaries in 1947, but a dispute between the union and the coal industry held up the first pension check to a retired miner until 1948.

From 1946 until 1971, there was a close relationship between the UMWA and the Fund. There were three members of the Fund Board of Trustees, one each for the union and the industry and one “neutral” trustee. John L Lewis held the Union’s trusteeship from 1946 until his death in 1969, while his close associate and director of the Fund, Josephine Roche, was the neutral trustee from 1950 to 1971. UMWA President W.A. “Tony” Boyle served as the Union’s trustee from 1969 to 1971. Collective bargaining agreements between the Union and the coal industry established the royalty payments to the Fund. But the collaboration between Lewis and Roche, and later Boyle and Roche, placed policy-making decisions in the Union’s hands and indirectly led to the abuses and mismanagement of the Funds that were made public in the late 1960s.

The 1946 Kruger-Lewis agreement called for an investigation of coal miners’ health and medical treatment, sanitation, and housing in the coal fields. This study took place in 1946-47 under the direction of Rear Admiral Joel T. Boone, Navy Medical Corps. Boone’s report, “Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry,” revealed inadequate health facilities, lack of qualified physicians, and poor housing and sanitation in many parts of the coal fields. Accordingly, in 1948 Warren F. Draper became the Fund’s executive medical officer in charge of ten Area Medical Offices covering mining districts. These offices arranged for the delivery of medical care to eligible coal miners by doctors in the coal fields.

The host of difficulties with the Fund’s health care program from 1948 to 1951 led to a decision to build and staff ten hospitals in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. These Miners Memorial Hospitals opened their doors in 1955 and 1956, offering modern facilities and equipment and well-trained medical staff to the Fund’s beneficiaries. Due to the gradual decline of the coal industry during the 1950s and 1960s and to the corresponding decrease in the number of beneficiaries for medical care programs, the Fund decided in 1963 to transfer the hospitals to the Appalachian Regional Hospitals, Inc., a non-profit corporation established by the Board of National Missions of the United Presbyterian Church.

The problem which led to the transfer of the hospitals also affected the other parts of the Fund’s programs. The Board of Trustees changed eligibility requirements for pensions in 1953 and 1960, responding to declining payments form the royalty on coal tonnage. These changes reduced the number of retired miners who qualified for pensions. A revision in the health care program in 1962 denied benefits to miners whose employers were delinquent in making payments to the Fund. These changes in the Fund’s programs, coupled with the Board of Trustees’ investment decisions for Fund financial reserves, stirred much resentment among coal miners. Their criticism of the Fund escalated in step with their dissatisfaction with the UMWA leadership in the late 1960s.

Friction between rank and file coal miners, the UMWA, and the Fund produced the 1969 Blankenship vs. Boyle class action lawsuit. On behalf of 17,000 miners who had been denied benefits by the Fund, this suit alleged that Fund finances had been mismanaged and that pension eligibility requirements were arbitrary and capricious. The presiding judge’s decision in 1971 found in favor of the plaintiffs and began a series of important changes for the Fund, including the removal of trustees and the director, diverting Fund monies to new bank accounts and investments, and implementing new pension application procedures. As a result of the eligibility portion of the judge’s decision, thousands of miners previously denied pensions began to receive them.

Extent

191.1 Linear Feet (191 ft. 1 in. (329 document cases, 5 in. each); (41 records cartons, 15 in. each); (1 small flat storage box, 3 in.); (5 ledgers, 9 in.); (6 bound volumes, 17 in.); (3 motion pictures, 4 in.))

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/

Separated Materials

The following material has been separated from Series 14. ADD of 1982/02/27, Area Medical Offices and Other Material:

Printed material sent to WVU Medical Center Library:
Harry E. Handley and Carolina R. Randolph, "Eight Years of Public Health Work, Jones Conty Mississippi, 1937-1944," NY, Commonwealth Fund, 1946.
Leslie A. Falk, "Medical Sociology: The Contribution of Dr. Henry E. Siquist," Repritn from journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1958 Vol. 13, No. 2.
"25 Anniversary Report from the Hospital Research and Education Trust" (1970)


Printed material sent to WVU Evansdale Library:
"USDA Testimony Proposing Long Range Agricultural Policy and Programs," before Congressional Committees on Agriculture, April 21, October 6-8, 1947.


Printed material discarded:
"Appalachia" Vol. 7, No. 4 (1974)
Title
United Mine Workers of America, Health and Retirement Funds, Records
Author
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center
Date
2020/05/11
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

Contact:
1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US
304-293-3536