Alabama Coal Operators Association
The Alabama Coal Operators Association (ACOA) was an industry group created by commercial mining and furnace operators in the Birmingham District. It was created in June 1900 to counter the emerging influence of organized labor and led negotiations with labor unions.
The group formalized its activities by drafting a constitution in 1908. Soon later it voted not to recognize or negotiate the United Mine Workers of America, triggering a major labor strike that year. The Association responded with a successful strike-breaking strategy, helped in no small part by Governor B. B. Comer's activating the state militia to prevent the union from holding meetings. The end of the strike came on August 10 and the association established open-shop mining throughout the district.
The Coal Operators Association followed their victory by implementing various paternalistic reforms which would have the effect of stabilizing their labor force and binding them more closely to the company. By many measures the reforms improved health and welfare in the laboring class. Racial segregation was preserved, effectively dividing the power of its potential opponents.
Besides suppressing further strike attempts by unionized miners in 1917 and 1919, the Association lobbied state and local governments to keep tax assessments for mineral lands below market value and to stave off regulation of mine conditions and workers' compensation. It also assisted operator's modernization efforts and sponsored mine safety programs.
The Association's records are held at the Birmingham Public Library Archives.
- Harris, Carl V. (1977) Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921. Twentieth-Century America Series. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 087049211X
- Alabama Coal Operators' Association records at the Birmingham Public Library