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Jack Wilson

AFL to Aid Akron Bosses Fight ‘Reds’

(March 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 11, 2 March 1935, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A burning example of what workers can expect from the current and much ballyhooed A.F. of L. unionization drive in auto and steel industries’ was seen in the “great offensive drive” of William Green which began in Akron Sunday, Feb. 24 for the rubber industry.

Green’s son-in-law, William Shepler, attorney for the rubber unions, openly told the Akron rubber workers at a mass rally which started the campaign, that the “A.F. of L. knows it can and will help management keep Communism from rising and that industry is slowly beginning to realize it.”

High praise for President Roosevelt followed the attack on Communism, Shepler saying that “We are fortunate in having a President whose government we know is on the side of the workers!” This, despite the open break with the A.F. of L. which Roosevelt made when the auto industry code was continued recently!

Coleman C. Claherty, special organizer for the rubber industry and close associate of Green, then urged the rubber workers to join the A.F. of L. and quit being “dumb” by remaining in the company union. In other words, he blamed labor for the deliberate betrayals he had made in the past.

The Firestone local, containing about 2,000 members (formerly it had 8,000) has threatened to split from the A.F. of L. unless something is done. The other two big unions at the Goodyear and Goodrich plants which combine with Firestone to make the basis of the rubber industry, have lost over half of their 16,000 membership, and dues aren’t coming in.

Most important of all, all three of the big locals planned a strike vote. Claherty hopes to divert the energy of the workers into a futile campaign. He completely ignores the fact that Akron labor dropped out of the A.F. of L. because of its inaction and that it would flock back if strike action was taken against the arrogant rubber barons.

The Willoughby Strike

The militant strike of the Ohio Rubber Co. union at Willoughby. Ohio, about 45 miles from Akron, is having an effect here. There 400 workers are facing 450 scabs and 200 gunmen directed by the notorious strike breaking agency from Cleveland, the Associated Industries.

The brutal beatings of 12 strikers, the terror caused when strike breakers and professional gunmen threw tear gas bombs at school children in a “playful” mood, not only aroused the populace of Willougbby, which is backing the strikers, but caused resentment in Akron.

After Claherty and Shepler left the meeting, a misguided but sincere A.F. of L. field organizer, George Roberts, who is leading the strike at Willoughby spoke briefly and aroused the rubber workers into a fever pitch when he told them that “You have to tell all labor boards to go to hell, while we were trying to arbitrate the company was hiring in thugs.”

“Rubber workers in Akron and throughout the world can only obtain their demands by striking and the quicker you realize it the better you’ll be.” He shouted to the wild applause of the audience. Of course, he is rather young and inexperienced, and doesn’t mix well with Claherty.

The Willoughby strike is the beginning of the open battle in rubber by workers for their most elemental demands. The company was about to give in to demands for abolition of the company union and the granting of seniority rights. However the Associated Industries, founded 25 years ago and “guaranteed to break any strike”, stepped into the picture with the approval of the Cleveland chamber of commerce. (Cleveland is nineteen miles away.)

Since then, the citizens of Willoughby have seen their streets swarm with armed thugs, many of them with criminal records. They saw the strikers get clubbed and gassed unmercifully. The strike, which is now in the second week, appears to be entering its most serious stage. The scabs (most of them were workers who didn’t walk out when the strike was called) want to leave the plant where they have been imprisoned for a week, but can’t because of the thugs.

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