John Siney
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Gosffo
N 40° 43.118 W 076° 11.523
18T E 399320 N 4508206
Quick Description: A man ahead of his time!
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 4/9/2006 9:35:20 AM
Waymark Code: WMA4M
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Kordite
Views: 27

Long Description:
Marker Text:


Pioneering labor organizer and leader of the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association (WBA) of Schuylkill County, a union of anthracite mineworkers. Formed nearby in 1868, WBA had 20,000 members in 22 districts; secured state mine safety laws and the first labor contract in the industry. Siney was president of the Miners National Association and was active in the Greenback Labor Party. the first labor contract in the industry. Siney was president of the Miners National Association and was active in the Greenback Labor Party.


Born in Ireland, he emigrated to America and settled in Schuykill County. In 1868 he founded the WBA, Workingmen's Benevolent Association. He wanted to improve the miners' working conditions and improve their pay. In a seven year period 566 miners were killed and 1,665 where seriously injured. The worst was Avondale colliery in 1869, 179 miners were killed by a fire (fathers and sons were found in the mine hugging each other). Schuykill County passed a law stating that all mines must have more than one opening. State inspectors were hired, but the law wasn't enforced. The mine owners were more powerful than the law.

Siney believed in negotiating with the owners and didn't stand for violence by his members. The WBA threatened a strike and after a short dispute the owners agreed to a small wage increase.

Franklin B. Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was unhappy with the power of the WBA. (He believed they were under the control of the Molley Maguires.) Gowen hired Pinkerton Detective Agency to figure out a way to destroy the union. Pinkerton hired James McParland, an Irish immigrant to infiltrate the Molly Maguires. Between 1876 and 1877 McParland was the key witness in the prosecution of 20 men who where found guilty of murdering several coal-mine managers in the area. Since most of the convicted men were either members or former members of the WBA, this organization came to an end.

Most of his effects are perceived as failures by his contemporaries. He was ridiculed and reproached and in 1875, there was a long strike (6 months) which he lost and severely weakened his union. Now, 120 years after his death, he is considered a man ahead of his time!!!!! He was a visionary and an innovator. A few things he did include:

1. Had the first mine safety inspection law in the United States (although they weren't enforced all the time).

2. Negotiated minimum wage for the miners.

3. Organized the first nationwide union, Miner's National Association.

4. Had the first industry-wide collective bargaining.

5. First written and signed labor agreement.

6. Union organized libraries and food cooperatives so families didn't owe their lives to the company store.

John Siney died in 1879, age 48, in poverty and is buried in St. Clair."
Marker Name: John Siney

County: Schuylkill

Date Dedicated: 09/01/2003

Marker Type: Roadside

Location: Route 61between Russell and Hancock Sts., St. Clair

Category: Labor

Website: Not listed

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