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Jack Wilson

Rubber Co’s Prepare for Price War

Cost Will Fall on Workers
Unions Face Battle for Life

(8 October 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 42, 12 October 1935, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AKRON, Ohio, Oct, 8. – A titanic-struggle by Wall Street interests for monopoly control of the rubber industry began openly this week, thus confronting the newly-formed United Rubber Workers of America with the severest challenge to protect the workers that the unions ever faced.

For the price of this war between the capitalists will be thrown on the workers through wage cuts unless the unions can muster sufficient strength to stop this move.

The battle which will take the main form of ruthless tire price slashes to drive other competitors into bankruptcy already began with a huge reduction by Goodyear in various sections of the country.

Rockefeller and General Motors interests have virtual control of Firestone (the Firestone family is no longer boss of its factories) through a huge loan they gave recently to the company and they intend to gain complete control of the industry, it was learned authoritatively.

Goodrich has been in the hands of J.P. Morgan subsidiaries for quite some time while Goodyear, closely connected with Sears and Roebuck, belongs to Dillon and Reed, New York financiers.

No sooner did reports of General Motors entry into Firestone reach Akron than Goodyear, foreseeing the plan behind that move, slashed prices to attempt to drive Firestone from business.

Wage Cuts Threatened

Firestone tried a wage cut in an important department but threat of a spontaneous strike stopped this quickly. The company was laying the foundation for tire price reductions in that move.

So the grim shadow of long hours of work, poorer wages, and lay-offs hangs over the workers as it did in the late ’20’s when the companies fought their first big battle.

These revelations explain the questions many workers have been asking themselves as they saw wage reductions, the return of the 8-hour day, and lay-offs creep silently into the factories. The companies were simply laying the ground-work for their fight!

How can the unions meet this challenge? What must be done to bring the thousands of exploited back into the unions so that they can successfully defeat these company plans which mean added misery and starvation to the rubber workers?

The house-to-house canvas for members Is not enough for the organizational drive.

Program of Struggle

Around a platform that meets the workers’ desires and needs can they be rallied. This must include: (1) No wage reductions; (2) Continuation of the six-hour day and abolishment of the eight-hour day where it has been introduced; (3) Seniority rights in lay-offs and no discrimination against union members.

Mass meetings with the international officers as speakers should be held explaining what is happening and pointing out that the only bulwark against the capitalist offensive are the unions.

Insufficient stress has been placed on the fact that the rubber worker unions have won complete independence from the A.F. of L. bureaucracy and that now the workers can build an international of their own desire – one with a progressive policy that meets the changing conditions In the rubber industry.

Ample proof that the rubber workers will rally around such a program was given recently at Firestone where a threatened wage cut, brought complete solidarity in the department and forced the bosses to retreat!

Test of Leadership

This is the first major test of the new leadership of the U.R.W.A. Although the unfolding events in the rubber industry are filled with dangerous situations and can possibly bring further defeat for the workers, the key to success lies in this very danger.

For if the leaders can confront this situation calmly, armed with the correct policy and platform, they have created for themselves and the union a formula which, placed into action, can only result in bringing the rubber workers back into the union by the thousands.

As always, the Workers Party will do its utmost to achieve this aim – build the unions and strengthen the working class against the ravages of capitalism. This will show which leaders are giving the rubber workers the correct ideas and bringing results. Every officer of both the international itself and of the local unions should welcome this opportunity to display their abilities and their fundamental Interest in the workers, as we do.

It is in the field of battle that generals and the army itself are tested. This applies perfectly to the rubber workers’ union today because of the crisis.

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