October 4, 1989 - The United Mine Workers of America voted to reaffiliate with the AFL-CIO, ending decades of division and ambivalence between the union and the national labor federation.
The Mine Workers union was an early member of the American Federation of Labor, but split with AFL leadership in the 1930s when the federation refused to adopt a strategy for unionizing workers in the growing auto, steel and related industries.
Under the leadership of their rough-and-tumble president, John L. Lewis, the Mine Workers played a pivotal role in the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and unions such as the United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers. Because of its CIO activity, the UMWA was expelled from the AFL in 1937.
In 1942, the Mine Workers withdrew from the CIO in a dispute over labor-management relations during World War II. The union was readmitted to the AFL in 1946, but left a year later when Lewis refused to sign the non-Communist affidavit required by the new Taft-Hartley Labor Act.
The Mine Workers remained independent until 1989, when President Richard Trumka led the union back into the AFL-CIO. Trumka is now secretary-treasurer of the national labor federation. The Mine Workers, meanwhile, have seen their membership shrink as technology displaces people in many mining operations.
For more on the United Mine Workers of America, visit the union's website, www.umwa.org