President Theodore Roosevelt Helps the American Worker

Coal miners in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in 1900

Roosevelt takes a big stick and fights against corruption amongst the rich and gives a helping hand to the American worker.

The Northern Securities Company was established when financier J.P. Morgan and railroad tycoon, James J. Hill decided to take control railways. Taking control of the rail companies were not different than earlier business dealings that took place throughout the United States, however, what was different about this compromise was the amount of money that was involved and the limit it put on rail fares. The business actions of the men involved caused President Roosevelt much concern.

President Roosevelt Stops Big Business

The United States Justice Department found Northern Securities guilty of breaking the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and forced the company to dismantle and pay a large fine to the United States government. In no way did the dismantling or fine hurt Morgan or Hill financially. The American people applauded Roosevelt for his handling of Northern Securities and in 1904, Roosevelt pushed for more investigations into the beef, oil, and tobacco businesses.

Roosevelt also was concerned with the American worker. In the anthracite coal mines injustice against the miners was most extreme. Government involvement in labor disputes were nothing new. The government usually favored the side of the employer as opposed to the employee. Roosevelt believed the government should take a neutral role between the employees and employers.

Anthracite Coal Mine Strike Comes to an End

In 1902, John Mitchell called a miner’s strike for an eight hour day, a twenty percent wage increase, and the recognition of the union; Roosevelt was quick in calling the mine operators and workers to the White House. Mitchell accepted Roosevelt’s suggestion of arbitration. Roosevelt had to convince J.P. Morgan who owned the coal mines to agree to arbitration. After much, convincing Morgan agreed. Both sides agreeing to a nine hour workday and a ten percent pay increase eventually settled the strike. Recognition of the union as a bargaining agency was rejected. Roosevelt would go on to ask Congress to pass laws that would regulate the hours and working conditions of women and children. He also pushed for employers’ to give workers compensation for those hurt on the job and to improve railroad safety. Roosevelt had little success in getting workers compensation and improving railroad safety passed through Congress. However, the child labor concern became a major issue within the labor movement.

In lower class working families, children had a responsibility as well to help support the family home in the early days of America. At the turn of the century children labor issues came to the forefront of the labor movement. The young girls worked in textile and sewing mills. The boys, some not quite ten years old would work beside their fathers in the coal mines. The parents would lie about the age of their children in order for them to be paid a higher income depending on the job responsibility the children had. For many children working in the coal mines, textile and sewing mills became a way of life.


  1. Bike, William W. Streets of the Near West Side. Bloomington, Authorhouse Publishers, 2002.
  2. Brinkley, Douglas. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. New York, Harper Collins, 2009.
  3. Explore PA History. The Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902
  4. “Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902.” American Decades. 2001. HighBeam Research.