The issues that lead to the strike of 1900 were just as pressing in 1902: the union wanted recognition and a degree of control over the industry. The industry, still smarting from its concessions in 1900, opposed any federal role. The 150,000 miners wanted their weekly pay envelope. Tens of millions of city dwellers needed coal to heat their homes.
John Mitchell, President of the UMWA, proposed mediation through the National Civic Federation, then a body of relatively progressive employers committed to collective as a means of resolving labor disputes. In the alternative, Mitchell proposed that a committee of eminent clergymen report on conditions in the coalfields. George Baer, President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, one of the leading employers in the industry, brushed aside both proposals dismissively:
"Anthracite mining is a business, and not a religious, sentimental, or academic proposition.... I could not if I would delegate this business management to even so highly a respectable body as the Civic Federation, nor can I call to my aid . . . the eminent prelates you have named."
On May 12, 1902, the miners went out on strike. The maintenance employees, who had much steadier jobs and did not face the special dangers of underground work, walked out on June 2. The union had the support of roughly eighty percent of the workers in this area, or more than 100,000 strikers. Some 30,000 left the region, many headed for Midwestern bituminous mines; 10,000 returned to Europe. The strike soon produced threats of violence between the strikers on one side and strikebreakers, the Pennsylvania National Guard, local police and hired detective agencies on the other.