Jan. 28 was the 155th anniversary of the founding of the American Miner’s Association at West Belleville, the area between Richland Creek, West E Street, North and South 16th streets and the railroad tracks on the south side of West Main Street.
The AMA was organized by 50 coal miners in the Belleville. In eight years the AMA grew to 20,000 members in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, thus becoming the first national union and the beginning of the modern labor movement, according to Edward Wieck, Research Associate in the Department of Industrial Studies of the Russell Sage Foundation, and author of “The American Miners’ Association, A Record of the Origin of Coal Miners’ Unions in the United States.”
Wieck wrote the AMA earned this ground-breaking status because “it was forehanded in organizing; it aggressively asserted and maintained the right of workingmen to organize; it won wage increases; it fought for legislation to protect miners in the mines; it formulated principles and policies and laid the foundation for future organizations among the miners. And by its example it encouraged organization among all workers.”
The United Mine Workers Journal of June 1, 1965, described the AMA as the “militant granddaddy of the United Mine Workers of America. That pioneer national union was a product of the industrial revolution then opening a new chapter in American history.”
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To acknowledge this accomplishment a plaque memorializing the AMA has been installed by the Belleville Historic Preservation Commission at the corner of 9th and West Main streets in the West Belleville National Register Historic District.
Jack Le Chien, member, Belleville Historic Preservation Commission