John L. Lewis

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Lewis at a labor rally in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, meeting with mine workers.

John L. Lewis (February 12, 1880June 11, 1969) was an American Labor union leader and the president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920 to 1960.


  • The workers of the nation were tired of waiting for corporate industry to right their economic wrongs, to alleviate their social agony and to grant them their political rights. Despairing of fair treatment, they resolved to do something for themselves.
  • No tin-hat brigade of goose-stepping vigilantes or bibble-babbling mob of blackguarding and corporation paid scoundrels will prevent the onward march of labor, or divert its purpose to play its natural and rational part in the development of the economic, political and social life of our nation.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • The organized workers of America, free in their industrial life, conscious partners in production, secure in their homes and enjoying a decent standard of living, will prove the finest bulwark against the intrusion of alien doctrines of government.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • If there is to be peace in our industrial life, let the employer recognize his obligation to his employees - at least to the degree set forth in existing statutes.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • Labor is marching toward the goal of industrial democracy and contributing constructively toward a more rational arrangement of our domestic economy.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • Workers have kept faith in American institutions. Most of the conflicts which have occurred have been when labor's right to live has been challenged and denied.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • Labor, like Israel, has many sorrows. Its women weep for their fallen and they lament for the future of the children of the race. It ill behooves one who has supped at labor's table and who has been sheltered in labor's house to curse with equal fervor and fine impartiality both labor and its adversaries when they become locked in deadly embrace.
    • "Labor and the Nation" speech in Washington, D.C. (September 3, 1937)
  • I have pleaded (labor's) case, not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled.
    • Speech at United Mine Workers convention at Indianapolis (March 1940), quoted in Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren R. Van Tine, John L. Lewis: A Biography (1986), p. 278
  • Who gets the bird, the hunter or the dog?
    • When asked about the presence of communists and other radicals working as organizers for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee; quoted in Life magazine, October 25, 1954
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