John White (unionist)

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John Phillip White
Portrait of John White.jpg
Born (1870-02-28)February 28, 1870
Coal Valley, Illinois
Died September 21, 1934(1934-09-21) (aged 64)
Des Moines, Iowa
Nationality American
Occupation Miner; Labor leader; Civil servant
Known for President, United Mine Workers of America

John Phillip White (February 28, 1870 – September 21, 1934) was a miner and president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) from 1911 to 1917.

He was born in Coal Valley, Rock Island County, Illinois in 1870 and went to work in the mines as a teenager before moving with his family to Iowa. He joined the United Mine Workers and was eventually elected District 13 secretary-treasurer in 1899. He became the district president from 1904 to 1907 and again from 1909 to 1912. He was elected an UMWA international vice president in 1909, serving for two years.

He was elected president of UMWA in 1911 after pledging to unite the union's warring factions. It is generally concluded that he was successful.

During his presidency, the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-1914 and Ludlow Massacre occurred.

He is generally considered a progressive UMWA president. He won UMWA approval of the six-hour day, a ban on the employment of anyone under the age of 16, pensions, and workers' compensation. Although he was a political conservative, he forced through an amendment to the UMWA constitution forbidding membership in the National Civic Federation.

White is well known for two actions which eventually determined the course of the labor movement in the United States. In 1912, he forced delegates of the UMWA convention to approve a resolution asking the American Federation of Labor to endorse industrial unionism. He also appointed John L. Lewis to be UMWA's chief statistician, a position which would allow Lewis to launch his own successful, historic run for the union presidency.

He resigned from UMWA in 1917 to serve as a consultant to the National Fuel Commission during World War I.

After the war, he worked as a field representative for UMWA. He died in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1934.


  • Downing, Sybil. Fire in the Hole. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1996. ISBN 0-87081-380-3
  • Fink, Gary M., ed. Biographical Dictionary of American Labor. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1984. ISBN 0-313-22865-5
  • Holbrook, Stewart. The Rocky Mountain Revolution. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1956.
  • McGovern, George S. and Guttridge, Leonard F. The Great Coalfield War. Paperback reissue ed. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 2004. ISBN 0-87081-381-1
  • Phelan, Craig. William Green: Biography of a Labor Leader. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989. ISBN 0-88706-871-5
  • Suggs, Jr., George G. Colorado's War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners. 2nd ed. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8061-2396-6
  • Schwieder, Dorothy. "Black Diamonds"." Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1983.

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Preceded by
Thomas Lewis
President, United Mine Workers of America
1911 - 1917
Succeeded by
Frank Hayes