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Jack Wilson

Rubber Workers Ride Over Green Machine

(31 September 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 39, 21 September 1935, pp. 1 & 4.<<br /> Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio, Sept. 16.Delegates here were rallying around the banner of their autonomous new international union, the United Rubber Workers of America, this week to consolidate the gains of their tremendous victory over William Green and the A.F. of L. bureaucracy.

Led by progressives, the delegates resisted successfully every effort of Green to choke down their throats through threats and intimidation the reactionary leadership of Coleman C. Claherty, symbol of the betrayal policies used in the past two years by the bureaucrats in the rubber industry.

They refused to compromise whatsoever on the issue of democratic election, sending Green fleeing from the convention with the roar of their protest over his dictatorial policies at the auto-workers convention, ringing in his ears.

Refuse to Bar Communists

They wiped out of the proposed constitution a clause which would bar “communists” from the new unions.

They told Green bluntly that the “A.F. of L. leadership today is too antiquated to give the workers in mass industries correct leadership.”

They declared they would appeal to the national convention the ruling of the executive council of the A.F. of L. that the rubber workers couldn’t organize on an industrial basis.

Backed by unions in Akron who are already sending protests to Washington, the delegates are demanding Green withdraw his threat of no financial support to the international unless he can appoint Claherty.

They passed resolutions unanimously protesting the Italian Fascist aggression in Ethiopia and urging the workers of the world to unite in a fight against German fascism.

Progressives Take Heart

At this writing, the delegates were preparing the groundwork for further attack against Claherty and Green in order to prevent them from still obtaining control of the new international by hook or crook.

Anti-Claherty forces in the Central Labor movement took heart at the victory of the progressives and immediately voted back into good standing delegates whom he had succeeded in ousting.

The Akron typographical union passed a resolution demanding that their international officers fight for financial support of the new rubber workers international at the next meeting of the executive council and they sharply criticized Green for his threats against the rubber workers.

Already rubber workers began to rejoin the unions from which they had fled after the A.F. of L. bureaucracy’s treacherous betrayal this spring during the strike threat.

The only serious threat on the horizon which faced the delegates was the perplexing question of selection of officers. There is a possibility of a split between Akron and out-of-town progressives over which man should become president

Defeat Green 44 to 9

Smashing through every treacherous move, every ruse and false argument, the rubber workers brought to a brilliant climax their terrific fight lor democracy by overwhelmingly voting 44 to 9 against a resolution which would sanction Green’s appointment of president.

The blunt repudiation of the A.F. of L. bureaucracy and its disastrous policies in the rubber industry was so decisive that Green, to save his face, declared. “I accept your judgment as final. No one can ignore the preponderance of your vote.”

The defeated resolution would have given him the approval of the convention to appoint Coleman C. Claherty, his rubber organizer, as president of the new international. But, as predicted in the New Militant, the rubber workers were so incensed at Claherty and his policies that his defeat was a foregone conclusion.

To show how strong the anti-bureaucracy feeling was, it is only necessary to realize that the resolution defeated was a compromise by the bureaucracy to the delegates. It specified that all other officers be elected. All Green asked was “let me appoint Claherty.”

Green Threatens Delegate

When Green spoke for the resolution he threatened Thomas Burns, of Chicopee Falls, Mass., a leader for democracy, because of an alleged association with a dual union movement in the rubber industry.

Burns took the floor in his defense and flung back into Green’s teeth every argument used against him. In fact, he proved that Green had appointed Phillips, a dual unionist, to a high post where Burns first met him. Burns proved that Green, not he, had associated with the dual unionist.

The progressive bloc began its fight for democracy by presenting Green, when he arrived at the convention, with a petition signed by 40 out of 47 delegates asking for democratic procedure and election of all officers. From then, Green and Claherty were on the defensive.

The bureaucracy went so far as to threaten reporters time and again, newspapers said, for printing accounts of the inner-struggles and thereby, indirectly, exposing each move of Claherty and Green. Mention of the auto workers’ convention by anyone brought panic to the bureaucrats.

Green Bars Industrial Unionism

Although delegates were prepared to fight for industrial unionism Green effectively stopped that by reading a mandate from the executive council which declared that those who accepted the international charter must obey the following provision: “To organize all rubber workers in mass production of rubber products, same not to include building and construction employees; making and installing machinery employees, and employees engaged in maintenance work or in work outside the factories.

In other words, the seven craft unions in the rubber industry will keep their independent existence and the rubber workers are left facing the possibility of disastrous jurisdictional disputes.

Green told the delegates, “You can neither accept, reject, or change this charter. It is conferred on you.” A move to fight the provision at the next convention of the A.F. of L. has begun.

“Surprise Move” of Bureaucrats

The bureaucracy tried a “surprise move” the second day. A resolution, introduced out of order was presented for appointment of Claherty. Only two out of seven of the resolutions committee had signed it. It was supposed to be 21st. Nothing was said of the majority resolution which asks for election of officers, through “non-concurrence” with the majority.

An illegal clause was attached to the resolution. It requested financial aid of the A.F. of L. The twofold clause was thus introduced so that the delegates would vote themselves out of financial support from the A.F. of L. if they didn’t vote to accept Claherty. Everybody saw through the move.

Green took the floor, urging the passage of the resolution. His stooges followed but to no avail. The central theme of their false arguments was, “If we don’t let Green appoint Claherty, we’ll have no money to support the new international.”

Progressive’s Reply

A progressive neatly shattered Green’s argument that the international needed money, should accept money and therefore pass the resolution. He answered. “We need your money, we’ll take your money and support, but that has nothing to do with the question of election of officers.”

“We can have our own president and officers and still take your money. In fact, we hope to!” he added as Green blustered. “We aren’t voting down the support of the A.F. of L. by defeating the resolution. That part doesn’t belong in the resolution and we’ll change it later.”

Another delegate scored the A.F. of L. leadership as antiquated. “We need an industrial base for the A.F. of L. if it is to survive.”

Powerful and blunt argument by S.H. Dalrymple, president of the Goodrich local for the right to elect officers added much weight to the cause of the progressives as Dalrymple is recognized as one of the leaders in the rubber unions.

“We’ve been promised for two years our own international. The rubber workers will join us if we keep our pledges. I would rather go down defeated after fighting my best for democracy than face the charges of the workers who would say we betrayed them,” Dalrymple pointed out.

Thunder of Protest

When the roll call vote began on the resolution of appointment of Claherty, a tense silence reigned, shattered only by increasing “Noes” which continued until they sounded like a thunder of protest against Green’s machinations and trickery.

Enraged beyond control, Claherty charged Burns and others of “distorting and lying about their past.” A heated argument followed with delegates lambasting both Green and Claherty for lying. Burns even arose and called Claherty a “g— d— liar.”

A constitution was adopted after clauses barring “communists, I.W.W.’s and members of other dual union organizations” was changed to exclude naming of political parties.

“We’d do better to exclude all republicans than communists,” a delegate argued.

Another clause preventing caucusing on union questions outside the local hall also met with defeat as progressives continued to establish democracy in the new international.

Both clauses had been placed in the draft of the constitution on the bequest of Claherty who saw in them powerful weapons against the progressives if he became president.

Progressives Prepare Slate

The progressive bloc which has been able to rally most of the delegates with it on every vital question is preparing a slate of candidates for officers and also watching for further moves by Green to attempt to regain control of the international.

Resolutions asking A.F. of L. help to aid financially the new international were expected to be introduced and passed. This will again place Green on the spot. He pledged support of the convention even though defeated.

Pay for officers was picked as: president, $3,200; vice-president, $2,700; secretary-treasurer, $3,000. Union’ dues are $1 per month and initiation fee, $2.

The preamble of the constitution has a clause recognizing the class struggle and declaring that the international will do all necessary to further the economic and social advance of the rubber workers. It recognizes the failure of capitalism and the necessity for its abolishment.

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