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Jack Wilson

Opportunities Big for New Rubber Union

Confidence in Own Strength; No Reliance in Boards
or Labor Fakers Is the Road to Victory

(28 October 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 45, 2 November 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio, Oct. 28. – The prelude to a new epoch in the history of the labor movement in the rubber industry is being written by the United Rubber Workers of America since its inception as an international union following two years of constant defeats for the workers under the reactionary leadership of the A.F. of L. bureaucracy.

Not only did the rubber workers distinguish themselves by freeing the unions here from the stranglehold of William Green and his henchman at their convention but now they are leading a fight against the establishment of an eight-hour day and wage cuts. Non-union members are rapidly returning to the fold.

Sunday night a mass meeting with the young officials of the international union as speakers was attended by nearly 2,000 workers,the largest gathering since the fall of 1933 when the unions were just formed.

The futile “effort” of the Goodyear company union to fight against the 8-hour day under the pressure of the 12,000 workers in the two plants here has neatly exposed the lies built by Goodyear in the 20years existence of this tool, and swung more workers into the bona-fide union.

Union Active

The United Rubber Workers’ leaders took quick advantage of the exposure of the company union. A committee went to the Goodyear president and demanded a return to the six-hour day. Mass meetings were held. A picket line was established around the entrance of the Goodyear plants, urging the workers to rejoin the union.

The Union Buyers club held militant demonstrations at the factories pleading to all workers to join the union so that a real fight against the starvation policies of the rubber barons could be made.

These facts indicate what the temper of the rubber workers has become as the rubber barons are trying to foist the cost of a price war upon the backs of the already underpaid workers.

Significant too is the open letter written by the independent union leaders who have been fighting the A.F. of L. since they were ousted for trying to form prematurely the international union. These leaders praised the United Rubber Workers of America and asked for readmission into the ranks of the bona-fide union.

What has caused this seemingly sudden lift from the apathy of last spring after the betrayal by Claherty? What does the future hold for the rubber workers in view of the facts of today? These are questions in every progressive’s mind which need an answer.

Struggle of Rubber Barons

We have already mentioned the valiant fight against Green and company. This gave self-autonomy and an opportunity for the rubber workers themselves to guide their union.

Then the inexorable laws of capitalism forced the rubber barons to try to save their profits, defeat their competition and fight for monopoly control of the industry which created the basis for the present upswing of labor.

To defeat competition Goodyear, Firestone, Goodrich and the others had to sell tires and other articles for lower prices. But they wanted to make profit so they naturally wanted to cut wages. That’s why they introduced the eight-hour day under which a worker toils 40 hours a month more but receives only $3 extra! In other words, he gets longer hours and a wage cut.

The workers began to fight against this move. At Goodyear the company union was meeting. It claimed to be there to help the workers. That’s why 150 workers jammed the meeting and asked for the return of the six-hour day.

But the move of the company union naturally failed. John House, Goodyear local president, told the workers at a mass meeting that “the company union will never bite the hand that feeds it. Join our bona-fide union and we’ll really fight together against the rubber barons!”

Fight for Six-hour Day

The other union leaders took up the cry. Warned by the New Militant, the progressive and other unionists were prepared for the rubber barons. They used the slogans advocated in these columns: Fight for the Six-Hour Day! No Wage Cuts! No Discrimination in Lay-offs!

“Only through the United Rubber Workers of America can the workers fight against the attempt of the companies to lower the miserable standard of living!” This message has been patiently explained to workers at meeting after meeting. The futility of the company union moves has helped greatly in establishing this truth.

Boldly the leadership of the international is trying to meet the challenge of the rubber barons. Holding mass meetings; the picket lines; patiently teaching the facts to the workers; these are correct steps to rebuild the unions.

But there is much more that can be done and must be done if the challenge is to be met successfully. And the first thing is the necessity of realizing that the federal government, despite talk of Madame Perkins, won’t do anything.

No Illusions in Boards

Remember, this same woman helped in the rubber betrayal this spring. Likewise, at best she will only appoint a fact-finding board. But the rubber workers know the facts. Smaller pay checks with more work speak for themselves.

No illusions must be tolerated regarding the role of the federal government. It has in the past, it does today, and it will tomorrow do all in its power to aid the rubber barons. For It is their government, not the workers’.

The workers must realize that the simple act of their joining the union will not mean that the companies will be frightened into returning the six-hour day. Quite to the contrary. The rubber barons will fight more strongly than ever against the workers.

What is necessary is to educate the workers into seeing that organization can mean something only if it has the correct program, not only of what they want, but how the workers can achieve it Bow they can re-establish a six-hour day.

Capitalists have never given anything voluntarily. Only insofar as the rubber workers have strength to force their demands, by strike,if necessary, can they succeed in wresting back the wages and hours stolen from them by the companies.

Until this is permanently established in the workers’ minds and they are convinced they must fight with this fundamental idea as their policy, the hard work of the union leaders will come to naught.

The basis for the defeats by the A.F. of L. bureaucrats lay in their class-collaboration philosophy. They preached that the rubber barons and the workers were brothers. The latest company moves tears this falsehood apart. The lesson of this should not be forgotten.

The progressive platform of the United Rubber Workers, which recognizes this idea – class struggle – as embodied in the constitution, gives a good basis for winning back the rubber workers. Events favor the union too.

Continue the Battle

By starting a fight against the companies, the union leaders have aroused the workers who are rejoining the ranks. They are writing a good first chapter in the future history of the labor movement in rubber.

A continuation and intensification of the efforts, bringing more sharply into play the progressive program adopted at the rubber workers’ convention, will bring further success and stave off the drive of the companies.

The battle between the capitalists and the workers has begun more openly than ever before in the rubber industry. Final victory can come to the workers only when the present decaying system is buried in its grave and a socialist economy under the control of the workers lives in its place.

In this epoch of imperialism with nothing but war and further degradation of the workers’ standards possible under capitalism, no illusions can be tolerated that security and peace will reign in the future. This can come only under a workers’ government. These thoughts must prevail among the rubber workers if they are to fight correctly against the rubber barons. In them lies the only hope of victory!

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