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Content Reading Guide: TR and More Progressive Tactics
In 1902, many coal workers went on strike in Anthracite, Pennsylvania and demanded a 20% raise in salary. Theodore Roosevelt called for the owners and laborers to talk. TR believed the government had to intervene to fix the situation, since fuel was important to the entire economy. Roosevelt threatened that the government would take over the coal industry, if both sides could not work out their problems. A compromise was reached in which the laborers and owners agreed to a 10% salary increase. This was a Progressive precedent set by TR and increased the role of the government in the economy. This led to the federal government intervening in business affairs that impact the economy at large.
Before TR was President, in 1887, Congress already passed Progressive legislation, such as the Interstate Commerce Act, that stated railroads could not have fixed, high prices. The Elkins Act of 1903 made it illegal to give businesses rebates (money back) for shipping. This prevented railroads from showing favoritism.
The Hepburn Act of 1906, also endorsed by TR, limited free railroad passes. These policies used government power to control the railroad companies. Measures like these brought more government intervention into the economy.
Previous generations seemed unaware to the notion that raw resources were limited. Private companies consumed forest areas. Westward expansion damaged the environment as many used up valuable resources quickly. Coal and lumber companies grew rapidly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Erosion and other environmental problems came about. TR claimed supplies were not endless and land needed to be preserved. John Muir convinced TR to set aside millions of acres of land to be protected, which became Yellowstone National Park. In 1905, Gifford Pinchot became head of US Forest Service. Pinchot advised TR to not let land become privatized. Roosevelt wanted to transform areas and make artificial habitats protected by the government.
Many argue TR did not do enough to help with Civil Rights for African Americans. TR invited an African American leader, Booker T. Washington, to dinner at the white house and hired some African Americans in government positions, which some saw as progress. Yet, W.E.B. Du Bois and other African American leaders asserted TR did not go far enough to advance Civil Rights.