DONETSK, U.S.S.R., OCT. 26 -- Hundreds of coal miners created the Soviet Union's first nationwide independent labor union today, unanimously accepting an ambitious plan to reduce government control over their lives.
The new Association of Independent Unions of Miners will act as an umbrella organization for an unlimited number of local unions. Membership could include 2 million miners and an unknown number of students, engineers, rescue workers and others who work at the country's 600 mines.
It could become the country's largest mass organization outside the 18-million-member Communist Party.
The new labor confederation, created during the second nationwide miners' congress in this Ukrainian industrial city, plans to use national strikes to press its demands, which range from better medical care and mining equipment to profit-sharing and higher salaries.
The 900 delegates to the congress put off calling any strikes until the legislature of the Russian federation, the largest Soviet republic, finishes its special session in December.
The union registered its first victory just hours after its formation when a deputy minister of the coal industry agreed to send a special commission to investigate complaints about unfair firings at several mines.
However, the new union still faces several hurdles in establishing itself.
The Soviet coal industry and its official union administer dozens of schools, hospitals, vacation resorts and housing complexes, in addition to mines and mineral processing factories. Miners have become accustomed to the state-provided services, and the new union has yet to decide which of these tasks to take over.
It was also unclear how many miners might join the new union or remain loyal to the official one.
"We have created a new union, but the old one still exists," Konstantin Fesenko, a miner from Donetsk, told the congress. "The old and new unions at some point might negotiate to come together, but the current apparatchiks must go first."