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Toledo – Union Town

Militant Battles That Defeated the Bosses

(30 November 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 49, 30 November 1935, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Over one and a half years have passed since that memorable night in May, 1934 when some ten thousand embattled Toledo workers besieged the stronghold of the Toledo Auto-Lite plant and fought through those six days of magnificent struggle against all the armed hosts of the capitalist state. The echo of that victorious “Battle of Chestnut Hill” beat against the eager ears of the American workers and inspired the first great strike wave under the “New Deal.”

Hard in the wake of the Auto-Lite strike came the two famous and historic battles, of the Minneapolis truck-drivers under the leadership of Local 574, the general textile strike, the San Francisco general strike, and a flood of other militant labor struggles.

Toledo a Union Town

Emboldened by the lessons of the Auto-Lite encounter, Toledo labor began a steady organizational, upsurge. Although every step of the path toward a solid and fighting union front has been marked by the fiercest opposition, both from the employers and government on the outside and reactionary union bureaucrats from within, the onetime notorious “scab-town” Toledo is today a genuinely union town.

This development did not spring to full flower overnight out of the earth. Following the Auto-Lite affair, Toledo experienced one strike battle after another, the Armour and Swift, Larrowe Milling, General Milk Drivers, FERA strikes and a flock of others. The primary Issue of most of these scraps was the establishment of the union, union recognition and the fulfillment of the grandiose promises of the late-lamented NRA.

Chevrolet Strike

It was therefore no mere coincidence that in May of 1935, but one year after the Auto-Lite strike, Toledo labor again set oft the spark which revitalized the apathetic workers in the giant auto industry and launched the second strike wave under the Roosevelt regime. The Chevrolet strike, under the leadership of hard-hitting, intelligent union progressives, served not only to entrench unionism in several General Motors plants, but exposed to the workers of the nation the treacherous role of Green, Dillon and other enemies of industrial unionism, stimulated the fight for union progressivism and the organization of the workers in basic industries.

The three weeks battle of the Chevrolet workers, climaxed by the unforgettable demonstration of the strikers against Francis Dillon, right-hand Green man, on the night when they were finally, bludgeoned into partial but short-lived defeat, served to crystallize anti-Dillon-Green sentiment in the auto, rubber and other unions, led to the formation of autonomous internationals in these industries, and spurred the fight for industrial unionism in the recent A.F. of L. convention and subsequently.

The Unemployed Leagues

No history of the class struggle in Toledo for the past two years, however brief, would be accurate or complete without some mention of the Lucas County Unemployed League. The militancy and persistent fight of the Unemployed League here on almost every picket line is traditional. For three years the Unemployed League has inspired the Toledo unemployed to steady battle for their rights. A half dozen or more organizations, including the Unemployment Councils, have risen and sunk into quiet oblivion, but the Unemployed League continues in a stable and steadfast fashion. It is the Unemployed League which has led and organized every unemployed demonstration in the past two years, which was the backbone of the Single Men’s Death March and the FERA strike. It was the Unemployed League which first violated the Auto-Lite injunction, revived a dying strike and inspired that first victorious struggle. The Unemployed League has been a powerful ally in numerous other industrial conflicts.

W.P. Active and Influential

The W.P. and its members have played no small role in this entire labor development. It has projected the idea of genuine fighting unionism, of class struggle, inevery labor issue; out of the accumulated experience which it represents, the W. P. has helped devise strategy and lent suggestions and guidance which have proven sound and invaluable for successful working class struggle.

Today, Toledo workers are making ready for a further step forward, a step which may well lead to the beginning of the third great “New Deal” strike wave. The Chevrolet union men are now faced with an attempt to weaken and smash their union. General Motors, after laying off 2,500 men for machine replacements several weeks ago, is rehiring only 1,400 with the reopening of the plant. But the Chevy men are not taking this lying down. They are demanding the rehiring of all those laid off. Meanwhile, the auto workers in Detroit and other centers are beginning to stir. The clouds are gathering and the storm may break soon.

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Last updated: 4 February 2018