B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Jack Wilson

Akron Bosses Union Revolts

Lay Off Resentment Rips Company Organization Wide Open

(21 October 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 44, 26 October 1935, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio, Oct. 21. – Pressed by a powerful demand from 6,000 workers in plant 2, the Goodyear company union revolted against company orders to approve a shift from the six to an eight-hour day and created consternation among the rubber barons as the feeling against the brutal company policy spread from plant to plant and brought tenseness throughout this rubber center.

The lower body of the dual-house company union, which was formed 20 years ago after the 1913 strike, took this sensational action two hours after the company placed the 6,000 plant II workers on an eight-hour schedule, thus laying off hundreds of them!

Over 150 workers stormed the company union meeting and thundered their protest which caused the thirty-two “representatives” to bolt from the purse-strings of the company. The meeting had been called to hear that cruel exploiter, Paul Litchfield, company president, attempt to explain his order which would send thousands of workers into the streets facing a hard winter without food or shelter. Litchfield, a fat and slick capitalist, refused to appear, although he said he would, when he heard that the workers had stormed the hall.

Bitter protests were voiced at open meetings of the Goodrich and Firestone local meetings Sunday against similar policies in these two companies’ various plants. Speaker after speaker aroused the workers against the wage-slashing, hour-lengthening drive of the companies which had been predicted in a recent issue of the New Militant as a warning to the workers.

Prepare Drive

Officials of the United Rubber Workers of America, who arrived home today from their battle for industrial unionism at the A.F. of L. convention, immediately laid plans to organize the angry workers into the unions so effective collective action could he taken against the ruthless companies.

The “upper-house” of the Goodyear “industrial assembly” as the company calls its tool, is expected to meet Tuesday morning with the “lower-house” to act on the resolution of the lower house which demands continuation of the six-hour day.

Spurred by the shouts of the workers, the lower house of Goodyear’s pet project, voted to hold a referendum in the factories on the six-hour day but Litchfield coldly told the public in an interview that the company would not countenance any such move.

Probably the company union will be brought into line by threats from the officials. Nevertheless the damage has been done, for the veil of paternalism carefully fostered by Goodyear has been torn from the eyes of muddled workers because the hard-boiled, slave-driving vice-president, Clifford Slusser, contemptuously vetoed the resolution favoring the continuation of a six-hour day. This is what caused the revolt, and the lower house immediately over-rode him by a unanimous vote!

The impotence of the company union to aid the workers in any real issue stood out nakedly and smashed through all the propaganda for it during the past twenty years.

Revolt Spreads Rapidly

Even if the company should suddenly decide to accede temporarily to the company union demands, it will mean little, for the rubber workers’ union has already explained to hundreds of workers the exact meaning of the move – an attempt to fool the workers into staying out of their only real hope, the rubber workers’ union!

Despite the astounding proportions of the protest which has swept through the shops of Akron like a prairie fire fanned by a gale, the rubber barons have flung another challenge to the workers. They have announced that by January the eight-hour day will be here to stay!

An indication of the restlessness of the rubber workers under this continual exploitation is the rejoining of over 100 men in the Goodyear local union. The bona-fide unionists are agitating through the factories, taking full advantage of the break in the company union and the company officials’ consternation.

We previously pointed out how the lash of competition and the battle of Wall Street interests for control of the rubber industry was the reason the rubber barons were cutting wages and lengthening hours.

War Situation Involved

Another factor has arisen which the rubber barons are not overlooking as an excuse to lower the poor standard of living of the workers. The precarious world situation with its dangers to world commerce is causing a rise in the price of crude rubber; ninety percent of the rubber comes from the East Indies and India and there is possibility that the Suez Canal might be closed any day to shipping. This means higher freight rates for rubber across the American continent and increased difficulties in shipping.

These events in the rubber industry again show how the basic contradictions of the capitalist system cause the bosses to try to beat down wages and exploit labor more than ever before – a fall in the rate of profit drives them into a frenzy to preserve themselves.

They also indicate that the workers are becoming more resentful under the lash of these cruel masters and that this antagonism is gradually culminating into an explosive force whose power it is difficult to predict. It must be borne in mind however, that Akron has been the scene of more than one large spontaneous strike.

B.J. Widick Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 February 2018