John Llewellyn Lewis was a coal miner and son of coal miners who became an American labour leader & president of the United Mine Workers of America (1920–60). He was also the chief founder and first president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO; 1936–40), now part of the AFL-CIO.
He left school in the seventh grade and went to work in the mines at age 15. In Panama, Illinois, he became head of a United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) local, and by 1911 an organizer for the parent union, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) . in a meterotic climb to the top, by 1917 he as vice president of the UMWA in 1917, acting president in 1919, and president in 1920, by which time the UMWA had become the largest trade union in the United States.
Lewis remained UMWA’s leader for the next 40 year, leading a successful national coal strike in 1919, but during the 1920s the UMWA’s membership shrank from 500,000 (half a million) to fewer than 100,000 as nonunionized mines in the southern Appalachians grew in favour and northern Unioned mines were increasingly ignored.
Mapping John L
John L has a natural disposition of Saturn in the common sign of Virgo, and one that is also associated with digging and tireless working, in the tenth house where Saturn rules. That makes both the sign and the house earth based, which was true as his career was totally dedicated to the UMW and Miner’s welfare. But he also has a focal determinator of Saturn being alone in the Southern hemisphere that both dispositions should how much his physical strength, his endless work and sheer tenacity kept him well-loved by his members.
His North Node, in the second house and retrograde, is coincidentally in the earth sign of Capricorn and trine his reminding us that is where his strength comes from: if we spin this as a mundane chart his strength is from using the the nation’s resources, if we return to the natal level it is his own great personal understanding of the process of using the resources at hand, whether it is in his own life or the men whom his Union represent.
His Venus, beautiful and acquisitive, is also nearby in the second, is partile to that North Node, and shows how he was constantly on the alert of finding new and safer ways to extract that precious coal from the earth. Venus is then trine again to Neptune in the sixth where a person toils creating a Grand Earth Trine that kept him focused.
The sixth house shows a persons toil, not what they necessary make their fortune or name from, but where they work for others fulfilling their duty. Here in Lewis’s chart we find the underground Pluto holding court in the black pits of the earth below, while Neptune with his trident extracts or explodes the iron (Mars) for other peoples use, and thus fulfilling perfecting the promise above.
Finally, Lewis’s ascendant is Mars 16 that is ruled by Scorpio in the twelfth, or what is often considered the dark house of the chart. It is opposite its own Lord in the sixth making the midheaven the point focus. As Uranus is close enough to work into the midheaven via a translation of light, one more time we see how Lewis’ worked the old man of the stars to his advantage.
The New Deal and Labour
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal presented organized labour with opportunities that Lewis used well. The formation of the National Recovery Administration through the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) guaranteed labour the right to bargain collectively and Lewis launched new organizing campaigns in the coalfields of Appalachia and elsewhere, tripling the UMWA’s membership within a few years.
Unions continued to grow with the 1935 passage of the Wagner Act (officially, the National Labor Relations Act) and Lewis and other AFL union leaders formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) with the intention of organizing unskilled workers in mass-production industries. This was apostasy by traditional unions who did not anyone but the skilled craft workers in their unions — reminiscent of the medieval apprentice system in Europe. Lewis’s arguments had the day and steel, tire, rubber, concrete pourers,lift operators, bus& truck drivers all became unionized in what many considered Lewis’s greatest coup.
With his midheaven exact the Fixed Star Regulus, when John L. spoke, the earth shook and miner’s walked out. In the Great Takeover when FDR tried to nationalize the Mines in 1935, and Lewis, a lifelong Republican, led his men into a strike despite having endorsed FDR in 1932.
Stymied, Roosevelt passed the first federal anti-strike bill giving the President power to penalize strikers or draft them into government service. It took another 50 years, but Roosevelt got his wish and all of the Coal Companies closed, and their Union Men lost their jobs as steel and coal went overseas.
Today we see the Democrats echoing FDR’s complaints against coal this time in the guise of clean energy, but anthracite from Pennsylvania is the cleanest burning fuel ever — and there are some other spots, notable West Virginia, that share that distinction, but there was a time when one man could stand up the state and force their hand and so we join the old miner’s toast, God Bless America and John L. Lewis.
The original chart we had on the site was dead wrong, citing an October 22, 1905 birthdate. You can view that here john L. lewis .