Michael Ratchford

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Michael Ratchford
Born August 1860
County Clare, Ireland
Died December 12, 1927 (1927-12-13) (aged 67)
Massillon, Ohio, U.S.
Nationality Irish American
Occupation Miner; Labor leader; Civil servant; Business executive
Known for President, United Mine Workers of America

Michael Ratchford (August 1860 – December 12, 1927) was an American labor leader and president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) from 1897 to 1898.

Ratchford was born in County Clare, Ireland. He attended public school and emigrated to the United States in 1872 with his parents. The family settled in Massillon, Ohio. He married the former Deborah Jordan in 1884.

He started working in coal mines when he was just 12 years old. He became active in the United Mine Workers after its formation in 1890 and was elected local union president that year. He was hired as an organizer by the international union in 1893 and was elected District 6 president in 1895.

After UMWA president Phil Penna declined to run for a full term in 1895, Ratchford was elected as his successor.

During his single term as UMWA president, Ratchford dramatically re-invigorated the union. He led a hugely successful national coal miners' strike in July 1897 which involved more than 100,000 workers. Supported by the American Federation of Labor, the strike lasted 12 weeks and shut down almost all coal production in the U.S.

The strike was settled when mine owners agreed to sign a national master contract, the Central Competitive Field Agreement. It covered all coal-producing states except West Virginia. The agreement established the eight-hour day and dramatically raised wages to 65 cents per ton. More than 23,000 miners joined the union, raising its membership to 33,000. The strike energized the entire American labor movement.

Ratchford resigned as president in 1898 to serve on the United States Industrial Commission, remaining on it for two years. An ardent Republican and personal friend of both William McKinley and Mark Hanna, Ratchford was appointed Ohio's commissioner of labor statistics in 1900.

In 1909, Ratchford was named commissioner of the Ohio Coal Operators and in 1913 assumed the same position with the Illinois Coal Operators' Association. He served in this last position until his death.

Michael Ratchford died in Massillon on December 12, 1927.

References[edit]

  • Coleman, McAlister. Men and Coal. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1943.
  • Fink, Gary M., ed. Biographical Dictionary of American Labor. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1984. ISBN 0-313-22865-5
  • Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States. Vol. 1: From Colonial Times to the Founding of the American Federation of Labor. New York: International Publishers, 1947. ISBN 0-7178-0376-7
  • Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States. Vol. 2: From the Founding of the American Federation of Labor to the Emergence of American Imperialism. New York: International Publishers, 1955. ISBN 0-7178-0388-0
  • Gluck, Elsie. John Mitchell, Miner: Labor's Bargain with the Gilded Age. New York: John Day Co., 1929.
Preceded by
Phil Penna
President, United Mine Workers of America
1897 - 1898
Succeeded by
John Mitchell